Foals are entirely dependent upon their mother’s milk for all nutritional needs up to the age of approximately 5 months old, but their curious natures generally equates to them starting to nibble on grass and feed before they reach weaning age.
Most foals don’t require extra nutrition besides what they receive from their mothers, but it will not harm them if they do nibble on any stud cubes or stud mix supplied for their mothers. The quality of protein in these cubes provide essential amino acids and a good balance of vitamins and minerals, so it’s perfectly healthy.
What and When to Feed Foals
Some foals may require a little bit of extra nutritional help and can be fed small quantities of foal pellets or foal and yearling mix as these products are specifically designed to be fed in small quantities to aid in the healthy development of growing foals.
Foals should generally be introduced to pellets before weaning takes place so that their digestive systems can adapt to the new feeding regime rather than a solely milk-based diet. When considering shows and sales, it may be beneficial to start adding feed at an earlier age to improve growth rates.
Creep Feeding Foals
Some mares may struggle to produce enough milk to feed their foals appropriately and will therefore need extra feed to sustain their own nutritional well-being. Just as free bonuses are helpful for playing at your favourite Canadian mobile casino, your mare may need a nutritional top-up.
In cases such as these, foals will benefit from being encouraged to take feed from a younger age and should be fed small quantities of foal pellets from a feeding trough that the mare is not able to access. Foal pellets are high in protein which supports the rapid growth of foals at this age and it’s important to feed good quality protein as its essential to muscle and skeletal development.
The Dangers of Overfeeding Foals
A careful eye should be kept on thriving foals which seem to be doing particularly well, as surplus feeding may cause them to become quickly overweight.
An overweight foal is at risk of developing problems such as epiphysitis, which is a condition in which extra pressure is put on the growth plates of bones due to the weight of the foal’s body and parts of their body may appear swollen – particularly above the joints.
Studies have shown that foals that are overweight in their formative months may later develop performance diminishing conditions later in life such as exercise induced pulmonary haemorrhage and development joint diseases.
Helpful Tips for Appropriate Feeding of Foals
- A good rule of thumb for stud feeding is 450g per month of age
- Formulations which are lower in starch may be better for bone development than those high in starch
- Underfeeding is just as hazardous as overfeeding so if you notice that your foal isn’t doing well on standard stud feed, switch to a low-dose highly fortified stud concentrate.