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How to wean?

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  • How to wean?

    Excuse me for my ignorance. To make a long story short, in a previous thread I told forumn I had taken in a rescue Morgan Mare, she was pregnant (didn't know this @ time), and had a healthy colt this past June. Since this is all quite new to me, my big worry now is how do I wean colt from mom, and when? He is 3 1/2 months old now, is eating hay and some grain on his own. I have no where to send colt or mare away for weaning, can't really separate them outside either. I could have them in side by side stalls, where they could see each other, but not be together, but i'm sure 1 or both would be beserk in a stall for a month or so. I've also heard, let mare wean colt herself. I plan on gelding colt as soon as both testicles are prominent enough, as last thing I need is him breeding his mom. His halter training is going fine, still not getting him to lead yet, but he likes attention when halter is on. Any suggestions on weaning would be great. Thank-you.

  • #2
    I don't wean until at least 6 months. I usually wait until I see more and more independent behaviour in the foal. I take it this is your only horse? When I wean I leave the babies in their stalls and walk the mares away to a field that is across the road. I leave the babies in a stall for a day or two until the mares stop calling. The mares usually stop after about 1/2 an hour. They're pretty relieved to be back on their own. If you don't have room then I would suggest the gradual method of starting to feed the foal in a stall next to his mom and have them spend more and more time apart. But I think you should wait a few months. I really must say that 3 1/2 months is very young and you'll probably not be successful. Babies need their moms for more than just nutrition. You've got time before he's going to try and breed his mom by the way.

    Good Luck
    Erica H. Max
    Fire Hjorner Farm
    Breeders and Importers of Danish Warmbloods



    • #3
      I do a gradual weaning - a different alternative to the one shot wean - here is my method.


      We have just hit the second last stage of Danika’s weaning and I have decided to document the process we have now used for three of our foals for future reference and to help others that may decide to try this alternative method to the one-shot weaning that most Foals and Dams experience.

      Advantages of this method include the gradual reduction in milk production and a systematic separation procedure to reduce the risk of weaning injuries as well as a reduction in Dam/Foal separation anxiety. Disadvantages may be time and manpower restraints that prohibit the use of this method.

      Stage 1 – Aisle feeding separation. This stage usually begins around the 2nd to 3rd month and usually lasts until the 4th month through the four steps. When the Foal begins to eat from the Dam’s feed bowl the steps can be started.

      • First step - We start with a baby bowl – for a day or two we separate the Foal – with halter on (if Dam is possessive, a second handler is required to ensure the Dam stays with her Foal) from the Dam within the stall and have the Foal eat out of the baby bowl. A handler holds the Foal and the bowl. While the Foal eats from the bowl, the handler is free to start touching the Foal all over if the Foal continues to eat.

      • Second step is to feed the Dam and then coax the Foal out into the aisle (ensure the aisle is safe and the Foal has a halter and leadshank – a second leadshank can be draped over the Foal’s rear for assistance in moving the Foal). Again feeding the Foal from the baby bowl while the handler holds both the bowl and the Foal.

      • Third step is to use a large ground bowl and have the Foal begin to eat out of the ground bowl while the handler again touches the Foal all over.

      • The fourth step is optional – but I really like this step if it is feasible. This is where the Foal will continuously eat out of the ground bowl – we allow the Foal to freely eat from the ground bowl and the handler leaves some distance so the Foal eats on it’s own – the handler can move away and come back – this aids in the Foal getting used to handlers coming around. We also move around the Foal and touch all the legs. The Foal can also be lead into a stall for eating.

      Stage 2 – Timed Separation. Around the end of the fourth month we start the Timed Separation of Dam and Foal. To ensure success with this phase a pasture buddy should have been introduced with the Dam/Foal around the 3rd month or leaving a few Foals together. Separation starts with mare being removed and walked into the barn. A handler should stay with the Foal to keep an eye on the Foal. Start with 10-15 minutes depending on the reaction, gradually increasing the length of Timed Separation. If the Dam is going back to work gradual work sessions can be used as part of the Timed Separation. Timed Separation should progress to 1-2 hours.

      During Timed Separation we also introduce feeding the Foal in a separate stall at meal times.

      Stage 3 – Field Separation. Once the 1-2 hour Timed Separation has become a routine, Field Separation can be introduced. Electric fencing and a non-mutual fence line are advantageous. This phase works best if the Foal remains with the pasture buddy and the Dam is removed. Alternatively both the Foal and pasture buddy can be moved to a new field. Dam should also have familiar company in the field she is placed into. Field Separations start with ½ days and progress to full days.

      An added benefit to the Field Separation is to add trailer loading training at this time. If a trailer, large enough to accommodate both Dam and Foal is available – a stock trailer or trailer with dividers removed or fully open work best for this. Before the Dam and Foal are returned to each other, one handler should take the Dam into the trailer and turn her around so she is facing out. Second handler brings the Foal into the trailer to nurse. Allow the Foal to nurse in the trailer – gradually reducing this time as well. Take the Dam out first – making the Foal wait until the Dam is out of the way (as the Foal will probably jump a fair distance to get out of the trailer). Again gradually increase the time period from when the Dam is removed from the trailer to when you allow the Foal to leave the trailer – exerting more and more control on the exit of the trailer.

      Stage 4 – Full Day/Night Separation. During this stage the Foal is allowed a brief nursing after feeding at both morning and night. We utilize these nursings for the trailer training noted in Stage 3. In our case we add a wall with bars into the Foaling stall but side by side stalls are fine as well. Personally I prefer not to leave Foals outside at night. We put the Dam in one stall and the Foal right beside. During the day the Foal will stay with its pasture buddy in a familiar field. This stage is usually a week in duration.

      Stage 5 – Final Separation. This stage involves no more direct contact between mare and Foal. In this stage nursing no longer occurs and after about a week the Dam is moved to another stall and a new neighbour is introduced (a pasture buddy is a good neighbour).

      One final note – I do not hesitate to allow the Dam and Foal to pasture together once the mare has dried up and everyone seems relaxed in the situation, but everyone’s situation is different. I have found this method to work very well for our situation. We are a small breeder that has the time and resources to implement a gradual weaning process. I realize that large breeding operations may not be able to implement all the stages, but perhaps an abbreviated version may be a consideration.

      Copyrighted by Prospect Equine Farms 2009

      Best of luck to you.


      • #4
        For your situation I think the best thing to do would be to find a breeder in the area that has several babies and ask if you can board your baby with them when it is weaning time. I definitely wouldn't do this before 6mo. If you wait until 8mo or so, both of them will likely be ready and it will be easier than you think. At that time take baby to the new place and let him have fun with other foals for at least 3mo. The older he is at weaning time and the longer he's away from mom the less of a chance he'll try to nurse again when reintroduced.
        Good luck! Babies are such fun!
        Hoppe, Hoppe, Reiter...
        Wenn er faellt dann schreit er...

        Originally posted by mbm
        forward is like love - you can never have enough