Dr Clarissa - Brown-Douglas, Kentucky Equine Research
Once your foal is on the ground, the well-fed mare will provide them with all vital nutrition through their milk. Mare’s feed requirements will increase significantly during lactation, often requiring 3 times as much feed than in early pregnancy. Feeding high quality forage and a full breeding feed is a good idea during this important phase, unless the mare is a good-doer in which case a balancer should meet requirements without the calories.
Foals will nurse very frequently in the early weeks and begin to nibble on grass and their mother’s feed within a few weeks. The difference between what the foal needs and what the mare’s milk provides will occur around 3 months of age, so at this stage it is a good idea to introduce the foal’s own feed. Depending on the body condition of the foal and the grass available, this could be as little as a small about of a balancer pellet, such as Barastoc Stud Balancer, or a small meal of a full breeding feed such as Breed N Grow.
After weaning, it is common practice to turn foals out for a length of time to grow on and mature. Please don’t forget about their nutrition during this time – the period between weaning and 12-18 months is a really significant window for the onset of several developmental diseases affecting bone and joint development, which can go on and hinder their future soundness. Nutrition, especially deficiencies and imbalances, have a role to play in the onset of these diseases. Weanlings, even when turned out, still need a balanced feed or supplement on a daily basis to give them the best possible chance of growing strong, sound bones and joints.