View Full Version : 5 week old orphan foal questions

Whitehedge Farm
Mar. 24, 2008, 01:56 PM
I tragically lost one of my best broodmares last week to colic. She left behind a beautiful 5 week old colt. Tried bottle feeding him for a few days but he never really go the hang of it. Thankfully though he IS now drinking milk replacer out of a bucket very well.
Do I let him basically have the milk free choice (as much as he wants) or can that cause growth problems? (he is a Welsh/WB cross) I also have out foal starter and milk pellets which he does not want to eat at all yet. He is nibbling on some grass hay. I also give him the progressive foal mineral paste once a day, and some probiotic paste as well.

Any other tips on raising an orphan? I am very lucky that I have never had to do this before but want to get it all right now! It has been a week now and he is still in a stall- I am working on finding a good buddy for him.

Mar. 24, 2008, 02:05 PM
So sorry to hear about your mare. How tragic!

I'm pretty sure it was Fairview who posted the link to how to raise an orphan using an igloo cooler as a milk holder. This allows the foal to drink as they please and still be out with the other horses. It's brilliant!

I don't have much more to offer as I've never had an orphan (of course, now I've jinxed myself...) Jingles.

copper bay farm
Mar. 24, 2008, 02:16 PM
So sorry to hear about your loss. :( Here is the link to Fairview's cooler system:


Whitehedge Farm
Mar. 24, 2008, 02:22 PM
that cooler system looks GREAT!
but i never did get him to nurse from a bottle very well- tried several different nipples. And now he has been drinking out of a bucket only for about 4 days. Should I go back and work on the nipple some more?? hopefully Fairview will see this soon!

Mar. 24, 2008, 02:32 PM
If the foal is drinking out of a bucket I wouldn't worry about trying to get him back unto the bottle.

We let orphan foals have pretty much free choice milk and watch their condition and growth. At 5 weeks old you missed some of the hardest most crucial times anyway. We find that a lot of the orphan foals wean themselves of the milk replacer at about 2 1/2 to 3 months.

Mar. 24, 2008, 04:56 PM
When we had our filly orphaned at 6 weeks old our vet had us make sure she was getting alfalfa hay for calcium and protein content. Luckily she was easy because though she refused milk replacer she was precocious about starting on solid feed early.

Mar. 24, 2008, 04:58 PM
So sorry for your loss. :(

I agree I wouldn't try to get him back on the bottle if he is already on the bucket.

I wouldn't let him have the replacer completely free choice, as some foals will gorge themselves on it. Monitor his intake and try to keep a happy medium right around the recommended amount for his age/weight. Also, replacer does spoil... so unless you're using the cooler method, you won't want it out 24/7.

It takes awhile for orphans (and all foals) to accept the pellets, especially without a mom to mimic. Usually they'll have a lightbulb moment after a few days. You can try placing a few in his mouth every now and then if he isn't showing any interest on his own-- eventually he'll get one down the hatch and realize they taste good! :lol:

Mar. 24, 2008, 06:18 PM
We have raised 4 orphans in just under 6 years so I can speak with some authority.

Once on a bucket, don't go back. Trust me on this one. Our latest one we are raising was 6 days old when we got him and he is not a thriving 3+ month old. Because we were in the middle of winter here when he came (he came December 23), we could not leave milk out or it would freeze solid. Even when our stallion, who is nearly 6 and my first orphan (he was orphaned at 10 hours old) and born in April, we did not leave it out for long.

Go by the directions on the back of the package of replacer. For the overnight we would give PJ a "double" and he finished it and was just fine until early in the AM. Now that it has warmed up a tad, we also have a smaller water bucket in his stall and he gets a small amount of grain 3 times a day-a total of about 1 pound, if that.

As for other tips, look for signs of ulcers. Treat him like any other horse, not like a puppy dog. Make sure he gets turnout-in a safe and enclosed area where the other horses cannot hurt him. Socialize him WITH other horses. Have others handle him as well so he does not get 100% attached to you.

It's all a learning curve with your baby and with you. Best wishes. I am more than happy to help in any way.

Mar. 24, 2008, 06:21 PM
Your doing just what needs to be done. We have been raiseing foals for 30 yrs now. Free choice Milk replacer, Buckeye, Land o Lakes, Blue seal Non medicated and I'm sure there are others. We do not use Foalac. Foals don't like the taste of it along with other faults. Feed a good quality hay with some alphy. Sandy always puts Grain in the corner bucket,down low so the foal can see it. Put your milk pelets on top. Do as the vet suggests also. Now get the foal a companion, this is very important. Another foal would be the best. Check around your area. The vets should know of any orphans. Maybe theres a nursemare farm down there. A companion is very important, it will keep your foal from getting depressed. Most orphans die because their depressed. They never do good alone. Companions will teach one another. they will be in the grain just because. You know,one will eat because it don't want the other to get it first. They will push one another in and out of the bucket. This is good,because it teaches compatition. There no limit to what they can teach eachother. Good luck and if you have questions email Sandy at Nursemareone@webtv.net

Mar. 24, 2008, 09:54 PM
I have a 4 wk old who is an orphan as well. Or hid mother rejected him. He is being fed out of a bucket and is doing really well. He gets Foal-Lac replacer and milk replacer pellets. The Foal-Lac directions say to throw away milk after 3 hours. Has anyone kept a free choice bucket of milk with the foal overnight for longer than the 3 hour recomendation?

Mar. 24, 2008, 10:22 PM
The Foal-Lac directions say to throw away milk after 3 hours. Has anyone kept a free choice bucket of milk with the foal overnight for longer than the 3 hour recomendation?

Different brands (specifically Buckeye and Progressive) are formulated to keep longer without spoiling. They keep about 10-12 hours or so, depending on on the conditions.

The orphans I've raised usually drink up pretty quickly, though. I'm normally not leaving full buckets for any extended period of time.

cyriz's mom
Mar. 24, 2008, 10:56 PM
So sorry about your loss...I so hope it wasn't Godiva. I Loff that mare.

Good luck with the little one, hope you are able to get him a buddy and hopefully an auntie type soon.

Fairview Horse Center
Mar. 24, 2008, 10:57 PM
Sorry to hear about your loss. Personally, after raising one on the igloo, I would do anything possible to use it. It is just amazing. You can know that the foal that it is intended for is getting the milk. No one else is spilling it. No flies, keeps for 12 hours, sitting in the sun in July. It is so comforting to the foal to nurse like he was born to. They do still drink water from a bucket, so it is not like you have to do anything more at weaning time. My foal continued to "nurse" for 5 months, and I was able to send him to his new home with the igloo for that long stressful trip.

Your foal will be fine, but the igloo just made my life so much easier, and nicer for the foal too.

Mar. 24, 2008, 11:09 PM
We brought an old mare back into milk using the hormone protocal for ours orphaned at one month...(have to look up the details on the protocol as it was a couple years ago)...we supplemented the foal as well but he and his auntie took right to each other and he had a "mom" to nurse on. It worked great...we knew the milk wasn't as nutritious as his mom's would have been so kept him on pellets...he wouldn't touch milk in a bucket and I was afraid we'd lose him since he would NOT nurse on anything we tried or take milk from a bucket. Finally got him to drink water, eat pellets and then once he started on his Auntie he was a happy guy.

So sorry for your loss and best of luck with him!!!!

Whitehedge Farm
Mar. 25, 2008, 11:31 AM
Thanks everybody for all the great suggestions! He is doing great with the bucket now and has QUITE the appetite for the milk replacer. He does not touch the foal pellets though. So far his favorite friend is his daddy who I have up next to him for half the day! They seem to love each other. He is the closest thing is size I have to him and is a very gentle and socialzed stallion, so he may end up being his buddy! I haven't turned him out yet but may do so in the next few days.

It was one of my GOV Tristarr mares, Nightstarr (Ivy) that I lost. She herself was very nice, I showed her in the hunters, but she was really an outstanding producer. This was only her 2nd foal, and of course I sold her filly last year, so I just have this colt to keep out of her. My other Tristarr mare, Gandina WH, aborted her foal 3 months early also this year. I have never lost a mare OR foal in 12 years of breeding and got both hit to me this year. Not fun :( I miss that darn mare so much!

Mar. 25, 2008, 12:51 PM
I had one orphaned at 5 weeks...

I soaked some of the pellets in the milk replacer and offered a tiny bit of that (a cup? two cups tops) all the time. Eventually curiosity and mouthiness won out.

My stallion has weaned many of my foals. He ADORES the babies and actually puts up with far more than the mares do. So that could be an excellent choice for you too.

Good luck. You *are* over the worst, but it is still hard. :sadsmile:

Mar. 25, 2008, 04:14 PM
Sorry to hear about your mare - we just had our first orphan - lost her mama when she was less than a day old. We called a friend with a TB breeding farm for a nursemare suggestion & she said, "Bring her here! I need her!" meaning she already had 2 orphans [one just a couple days older than our filly] & wanted more so they could socialize & learn to be horses. The filly learned within hours to drink from a bucket & the last time I saw her, was wearing a lovely leopard-print baby blanket & sleeping with her best buddy.

I asked one of the experienced workers there what else I needed to know about orphans. She said no matter how much milk replacer they get, they usually don't grow - at first - like the others, but catch up later.

And if they are raised with other horses as horses, by the time they're in the weanling herd, you generally can't tell the difference, in size or personality. So I'm passing it along, just because I had this very discussion over the weekend.

Good luck with yours.

Mar. 25, 2008, 04:44 PM
I raised an orphan last year too - he went straight to the bucket. We pretty quickly introduced pellets (Elk Grove Milling Get Go and Stablemate, and Calf Mana) to him - soaked in water at first, mixed w/ some of his milk. Gradually weaned him to more and more of those pellets and less and less of the milk. To this day (he's now a yearling), he loves his food soaked in water, so he gets Elk Grove Milling Performance every evening with a bucket of water poured over it.

Since your guy is old enough to start eating some solids, I wouldn't leave him a bucket of milk overnight unless it is something that won't sour. The stuff (we used FoalLac) goes bad pretty quickly! But make sure he gets about 5 to 6 feedings/day for a while. Easiest if there are two of you, one to give a late evening feeding, and one to feed early a.m. And leave him pellets to nibble on whenever he wants.

By the way - my orphie is about 15.2 at one year old - definately didn't miss out on any of his growth!

Mar. 25, 2008, 04:49 PM
:( I'm so sorry for you.........and that nice baby. :(

cyriz's mom
Mar. 25, 2008, 07:29 PM
I remember seeing Ivy, Ann. Again, so sorry for your loss...really sucks when they make it through foaling okay and then you lose them weeks later.

I need to come see your new little guy, he looks awfully cute!

Best wishes for your wee one and the rest of your foaling season.

Mar. 26, 2008, 02:44 PM
Igloo Cooler & caring for Orphan Foals

Foaling season brings a lot of joy, but unfortunately also brings sadness. When that sadness is the loss of a wonderful mare, leaving the breeder with a new foal to care for, it can be an overwhelming task. Most information on feeding orphan foals will tell you they need to be fed every 3 to 4 hours, around the clock, but reality is they will nurse much more often than that in a natural setting. They will nurse every time they wake up - sometimes as often as every 30 minutes. The closer you get them to what is natural for them, the less stress they will have, and the healthier they will be.

When I lost my lovely Hanoverian mare, leaving me with a barely 2 day old foal to care for, in the middle of the night (isn't that always the way it goes?), I was not prepared. Luckily my foal had received that precious first colostrum from his mom, and his IgG level for fine, so at least that was not a worry. I only had the basic "human" baby bottle and nipple in my foaling kit, so that is what we started with. I also had no milk replacer, but did have a recipe for making a short term substitute from common (available in the middle of the night) ingredients. (See recipe below) I began with the milk at body temperature, but within a couple of days, had him drinking it at room temperature, and by the end of the week, as cold as it came from the faucet (pretty cold)
Very quickly, the baby bottle became too small for the needed meals, so it was replaced by a 20 oz coke bottle. The goats/lambs nipple fits perfectly over the end. Still, the schedule of feeding every 3 to 4 hours, around the clock was exhausting. I remembered seeing a web page about a miniature donkey breeder that used an igloo cooler for an orphan, so went in search of information. Some friends on The Chronicle of the Horse Forum used their skills to quickly find me the page. Short ASSetts Ranch. It was a lifesaver! THANKS Mary Lou & Kate! My husband went in search of the parts, and easily put it together for me. It worked like a charm! (Instructions below)

Buckeye Feeds makes a milk replacer that stays good for 12+ hours, so you only have to fill it 2 - 3 times a day. We used the frozen lunch box packs to float in the milk. Not only would they help to keep the milk fresher in very hot temps, but would settle into the bottom and fill the space below the spout, so less was wasted at the bottom. I found that if I mixed the milk with just a bit more water than the normal replacer recipe called for, it kept the foal from straining so much to pass manure. In the hot summer months, it made me feel a bit better too about keeping him hydrated.

It was very easy to move from place to place, and to bring in for cleaning and refilling. We continued to allow the foal to "nurse" for about 4 1/2 months, just watering the milk down more later as he began to eat the milk pellets.

I felt that is was very important for him to learn to be a horse, not a person, so as soon as he was stable, I moved him to a stall as far from the "people" activity as possible. I used a stall that was adjoining another with spaced boards above about 3' and put my oldest filly (2 months) and her mom in the next stall. The filly was totally fascinated with him, and they could touch noses and bond. I began to turn him out with them in a large area, and the 2 foals developed a wonderful relationship. My "little mother" followed him everywhere!

"Mom" was even good at a little discipline.

By the time "Freckles" was a month old, he was totally bonded to Aruba, and I was able to put them into the herd of now 5 mares and 6 foals. He did incredibly well, even though he was the youngest, occasionally picked on by the oldest colt, but just learned to circle the group until the big guy got tired and bored. He would cross the large field to return to the igloo cooler when he got hungry, with his "little mom" following along.

and sending your friends home early

and then back to normal

Freckles and his "mom" Aruba - what a great mom she was.

Inducing Lactation in an Open Mare and Adoption of an Orphan Foal
by Peter Daels, DVM, PhD Diplomate ACT, Diplomate ECAR

Igloo Cooler parts, assembly, and use

1 (or 2 for a spare) 1 1/2 gallon Igloo cooler
2" or 4" PVC screw on pipe (from plumbing supply -Home Depot , Lowe's, etc)
this pipe is slightly smaller where it screws into the cooler. Take the cooler and nipple with you to make sure you get the right part.
Goat's /lamb's nipples (one for each week of expected use)
Rubber stretchy (about 18") with snaps on each end
Several double end snaps, screw eyes, and a short rope
Wire whisk for mixing
4 small lunchbox freezer packs

The spout on the cooler just unscrews to remove from the plastic nut on the inside, and the pvc pipe screws right into the threads on the cooler, with the plastic nut securing it on the inside. The lambs nipple fits perfectly over the end. We had it about 3/4" onto the end of the pipe. It is a tight fit, and did not come off, but some people may feel better if it is clamped. I opened up the "x" on the nipple slightly in each direction. You don't want it too big of a split as the milk will drip. You can test the flow of the nipple yourself before putting it on the cooler. The nipple fit tight enough that we had to use pliers to install it far enough on the pipe. They are pretty tough, but will tear, so best to have lots of spares.

We placed a screw eye in the wall, and posts where we wanted to hang the cooler. The spout needs to be at a normal nursing height, or lower to avoid aspirating.

We also put 2 screw eyes in the wall to attach the rubber stretchy around the "waist" of the cooler. This kept is stable, and also discouraged the foals from playing with, and damaging it.
Emergency Recipe for Replacement Milk

1 gallon homogenized milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup corn syrup

The buttermilk is for the live cultures the foal needs; the evaporated milk adds the necessary extra milk solids, and the corn syrup adds the needed sugars. (Don't use honey for the needed sugars as honey contains botulism spores).

Warm to body temperature
(99 degrees F)

Hope this helps and good luck with the little fella.

Donna D
Mar. 27, 2008, 08:16 AM
The Nursemare is the best way to raise an orphan foal. Doesn't matter what we humans think, its the very best way to end up with a horse that has all its marbles. A horse that has been taught by a horse. We give orphan foals companions when being raised by humans. Thats so the foal doesn't get depressed, not to teach horssy things. The nursemare will teach the foal, nurish the foal and protect the foal. All done without any help from the humans. People can go about their normal lives.

Fairview Horse Center
Mar. 27, 2008, 09:48 AM
I did go about my normal life. My 2 month old filly "raised" my orphan. She was his friend and protector, AND his disciplinarian. Her mom wanted nothing to do with him, but allowed him to be near her filly. 2x a day, I mixed the milk, but feeding/haying/watering a horse takes that time too. BOY was the stall cleaning easier! :yes: :yes: What I saved on bedding and labor that summer probably paid for 1/2 the milk. My orphan was polite, respected space, but VERY independent. It was so much fun to deal with an orphan like that.

Honestly, when you looked at the herd, you couldn't tell which was the orphan.