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Time to Re-Think early Weaning

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  • Time to Re-Think early Weaning

    I hope all breeders will try to get their hands on a copy of the August Horse Journal with this article on the front page. It has extremely helpful information and the basis for making the case for NOT weaning foals at an early age. It also speaks to the issue of taking young foals to shows. Finally in print the information that the foal is not "pulling the mare down" - she is just not getting enough food.
    Other very interesting observations about when the milk changes and how this can relate to bone/joint development in the foals.
    Summit Sporthorses Ltd. Inc.
    "Breeding Competition Partners & Lifelong Friends"

  • #2
    Does it talk aboaut hi/low heel syndrome? My farrier was telling me of a study done at the U of Utrecht in Belgium that discussed early weaning with uneven heels on foals and that foals weaned later were less likely to develop it.
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by ise@ssl View Post
      It also speaks to the issue of taking young foals to shows.
      I don't get that magazine. What does it say about showing foals? We have ALWAYS shown our foals...and I think most people take their warmblood foals to inspections, etc. We have found getting them out and showing them at a young age has been very beneficial.
      www.DaventryEquestrian.com
      Home of Welsh Cob stallion Goldhills Brandysnap
      Also home to Daventry Equine Appraisals & Equine Expert Witness
      www.EquineAppraisers.com

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      • #4
        It is a very good article. FWIW, I have always weaned my foals at 8 months (or later). I know that many of the breeders that post here also wean"late" (aka "at a biologically appropriate time").

        It's great to see the science catching up to common sense horse management. ;-)
        Dawn Jones-Low
        Faerie Court Farm
        facebook page

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        • #5
          is there a link anywhere to read it?
          Cornerstone Equestrian
          Home of Amazing (Balou du Rouet/Voltaire) 2005 KWPN Stallion
          RPSI, KWPN reg B, and IHF nominated
          www.cornerstonefarmpa.com

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            The article speaks to not taking foals to shows after they have been weaned. It states that by that time the immunities passed with the colostrum have wained and the foals immune system has not reached peak efficiency. I take from that that if the foals are on the mares it would be o.k. for one day outings like inspections. We don't show foals - early on realized it was a waste of money and too much stress. The are presented for registration approval and that's all.

            I felt the information on the foals in the wild and how long the mares let them nurse was interesting. We breed mares every other year and leave the foals on for at least 8 months. This article verified what we have seen in research - that the incidence of ulcers is reduced, as is the incidence of bone issues.

            here's the link to the article on the website www.horse-journal.com

            Dawn J-L - I too thought it was interesting that science is catching up with what is the natural pattern for horses in the wild. Sometimes I think the Grain companies do a good selling job of convincing horse owners that foals are ready for grain earlier than they should have it.
            Summit Sporthorses Ltd. Inc.
            "Breeding Competition Partners & Lifelong Friends"

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            • #7
              Foals do not have the enzymes necessary to digest grain products before the age of 3 months. Feeding young foals grain, or letting them eat Mum's grain, is thought to be one of the causes of cribbing. Since grain can't be digested in the stomach, it is passed into the intestine and fermented in the hindgut. The fermentation - in foals fed grain AND in mature horses fed more grain than the stomach can handle) causes acid gut syndrome. It is thought that horses crib to relieve the pain.

              Foals up to at least 3 months of age should be fed a milk based pelleted feed.

              And yes, to the people who bring skinny, ribby mares to inspections and say the foal draws them down....... yeah, sure, if you don't feed the mare enough for 2. Mares with foals at their side need twice the protein and an increased fat level. If you give the mare enough food, the foal won't draw her down. Not even a TB mare.
              Tranquility Farm - Proud breeder of Born in the USA Sport Horses, and Cob-sized Warmbloods
              Now apparently completely invisible!

              Comment


              • #8
                Can someone tell us what the article considers early?
                Kendra -- Runningwater Warmbloods
                Home of EM Raleska (Rascalino/ Warkant) and Donatella M (Furstenball/ Jazz Time)
                'Like' us on Facebook

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                • #9
                  FWIW, my family bred an arab mare to a warmblood stallion. The foal was big, beautiful, and had a wonderful disposition. The mare, who was a hard keeper anyways, had no real problem holding weight while pregnant. When that foal started nursing, it literally drained her.

                  The mare was fed free choice alfalfa hay with a bit of grass mixed in. She got a few pounds of grain, I don't remember what kind, mixed with a few pounds of alfalfa pellets and roasted soybeans. I no longer remember the exact amounts, but it was a lot even for a broodmare. EIGHT cups of oil were dumped over everything, even her hay, in a desperate attempt to keep weight on her. Any more and she would refuse the food. She still continued to drop weight. At the age of one month, the foal was given a creep feeder because she began to steal her mother's grain. I also never saw a foal nurse as often as this one - literally every five minutes she took a ten minute meal.

                  At two months, the mare had dropped a hundred pounds, and was really close to looking like a rack of bones - the kind of horse hidden behind the barn. She was nowhere near fat when she had the foal, but in good flesh. Afraid she would lose more weight, the foal was weaned just short of three months. I would never wean that early again, but felt the circumstances justified the timing. The foal is currently a beautiful mare, healthy and strong. She does not have any vices, unless you count her run of attempted suicides in he pasture (seriously, she tried to cut off each of her hooves at least once, in a different way each time). I would not wean that early under normal circumstances, but I do not feel this foal had any lasting ill affects.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sterling2000 View Post
                    FWIW, my family bred an arab mare to a warmblood stallion. The foal was big, beautiful, and had a wonderful disposition. The mare, who was a hard keeper anyways, had no real problem holding weight while pregnant. When that foal started nursing, it literally drained her.

                    The mare was fed free choice alfalfa hay with a bit of grass mixed in. She got a few pounds of grain, I don't remember what kind, mixed with a few pounds of alfalfa pellets and roasted soybeans. I no longer remember the exact amounts, but it was a lot even for a broodmare. EIGHT cups of oil were dumped over everything, even her hay, in a desperate attempt to keep weight on her. Any more and she would refuse the food. She still continued to drop weight. At the age of one month, the foal was given a creep feeder because she began to steal her mother's grain. I also never saw a foal nurse as often as this one - literally every five minutes she took a ten minute meal.

                    At two months, the mare had dropped a hundred pounds, and was really close to looking like a rack of bones - the kind of horse hidden behind the barn. She was nowhere near fat when she had the foal, but in good flesh. Afraid she would lose more weight, the foal was weaned just short of three months. I would never wean that early again, but felt the circumstances justified the timing. The foal is currently a beautiful mare, healthy and strong. She does not have any vices, unless you count her run of attempted suicides in he pasture (seriously, she tried to cut off each of her hooves at least once, in a different way each time). I would not wean that early under normal circumstances, but I do not feel this foal had any lasting ill affects.
                    A foal should never nurse for more than a couple of minutes at a time. If he was literally attempting to nurse for ten minutes at a time she was not producing enough milk.
                    McDowell Racing Stables

                    Home Away From Home

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      sterling2000 - I feel for you. One of my best mares was absolutely awful to keep weight on at the best of times and impossible with a foal at side.

                      We tried everything - from soaking her food in molasses, to CocoSoya Oil, Flax Sheen, the highest molasses percentage of any of the high end feeds we could find, no molasses, lots of carrots, just a few carrots, buckets of alfalfa pellets hung in the stall for free choice feeding, 2nd, 3rd and 4th cut hays - forget about even trying to get her to eat 1st cut

                      She would take a few nibbles then go in the corner and sigh and wait to go outside. She never finished breakfast - ever. It was always waiting for when she came back inside.

                      Dinner was leftover breakfast and then she'd get more grain at night check. Usually it was still there by morning.

                      We kept things the same, we changed it up, we tried every feed known to man and it was all pretty well the same. Sometimes she'd eat all her carrots, sometimes she'd eat one and leave the rest

                      I always felt I had to "explain" why she didnt look her best and it certainly was not through lack of feeding. It was simply from her lack of having any interest at all in her food

                      Maybe with some people they arent feeding them enough but in many cases, the owners are trying everything they possibly can and nothing is working
                      www.TrueColoursFarm.com
                      www.truecoloursproducts.com

                      True Colours Farm on Facebook

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TrueColours View Post
                        Maybe with some people they arent feeding them enough but in many cases, the owners are trying everything they possibly can and nothing is working.
                        Count me in as one of those. Though I think I think I have pegged the problem this year... My particular mare right now doesn't like heat much, I think it might be an idea to breed her much earlier so that the foal is already much older and nursing less by the time summer heat gets here... Last two years, she foaled late May/early June. We'll see.

                        Now of course, I have to present her for inspection this year too. I know judges are used to it and what not, but still... You don't want to be "that" person who doesn't feed its horses!
                        www.EquusMagnificus.ca
                        Breeding & Sales
                        Facebook | YouTube

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Any of you that know about my "Weaning By The Signs" dates I post each year (see the Sticky at the top of this forum - http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=196536)

                          will also know that I am an advocate of the 6 month weaning. I actually weaned for years at 5 months until I was asked by a top pony breeder, "What is your hurry?"..... So I use 6 months religiously.

                          Also, along those same lines (about weaning)

                          From the article "Do You Plan TO Breed Your Mare?" -

                          WEANING. Do you have a way to separate the two of them? They don’t have to be miles apart, but mare and foal shouldn’t be in adjoining paddocks or stalls. So, if your four-acre farmette only has one paddock or two adjoining ones, you’ll want to build something new or send one of them elsewhere.
                          Randee Beckman ~Otteridge Farm, LLC (http://on.fb.me/1iJEqvR)~ Marketing Manager - The Clothes Horse & Jennifer Oliver Equine Insurance Specialist

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks Tiki - alot of people don't know that about the enzymes. We have our feed buckets as high as possible so the foals cannot get to the grain. By the time they can reach the grain they are well past 4 months of age if not later.
                            I personally don't feed alfalfa or use oil. Tends to be too much of a diaretic which creates more problems.
                            Summit Sporthorses Ltd. Inc.
                            "Breeding Competition Partners & Lifelong Friends"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I did that too. I installed my feeders so high that when the foal reaches, he's actually old enough to be "allowed" grain.
                              www.EquusMagnificus.ca
                              Breeding & Sales
                              Facebook | YouTube

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I fed some alfalfa (a couple flakes) to my mare along with her grass hay because she would eat all of it and I was trying to get weight on her. The diaretic issue you refer to--do you mean in the foals? I guess the baby never had that issue (after foal heat).

                                Just trying to learn, thanks.
                                DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/

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                                • #17
                                  So it seems 6 to 8 months is the ideal weaning time.

                                  I have an issue though.

                                  I have a 1 acre farm with 3 horses. (old retired gelding, mom and 4 month old colt)

                                  So how do I wean him? The pastures are next to each other.

                                  I can move the foal to the stall away from the mare next to the gelding which is in a separate barn, but the pastures do touch.

                                  I can also put foal out with gelding, he is gentle.

                                  If I could find a way to get them not to touch, how long does it have to be like that.

                                  Mare is also pregnant due in April.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I also wean at 6 months or a bit later - what's the hurry? I also feed nursing mares 4 times a day on balanced concentrates, as much pasture as the heat and bugs permit, and good hay in front of them all the time. So far, I've avoided most of the growth problems in the foals or too much loss of weight in the mares. Knock on wood..........

                                    Diane Halpin: Facebook

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                                    • #19
                                      My mare has about double the amount of food she normally eats. But she is pregnant and has a 4 month old at her side. Shelooks great weight wise.

                                      She is hilarious! She knows the times I feed grain and she has her head over the fence staring down my sliding door to the kitchen.

                                      6 am, noon and 5 she is giving me the stare down!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Weaning and mare weight

                                        I love this discussion. I have a mare I call my Holstein/Gurnsey, no matter how much she eats, she loses and her foal gets super fat! I have feed her free choice pasture, alfalfa, and up to 24 pounds of quality concentrates. She also is given a bucket of water near her hay as she is a dunker. I give her 2 cups of oil but the concentrates are high fat, too. Really, its almost comical to see how fat her foals are but I worry a bit that they are too fat. This usually self corrects at about 3-4 months as the faol starts to 'stretch' upward more. I do her teeth and fecal sample testing for parasites and worm as indicated too. I have other mares that are quite fat and stay that way and another that is just right. For this mare I make sure she is pretty darn fat at foaling because I know what is coming! I am more concerned how loss of 'bloom' affects fertility than how the mare looks though of course I hate it when she looses that smooth look. I should take orphan foals and put a second on her like they do with cows and at least then maybe her foal will get so fat.

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