How to Feed Orphan Foals

Orphan foals require special care from the start, especially when it comes to their nutritional needs.
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It’s an unfortunate reality that at one time or another, most veterinarians and breeders will face caring for an orphan foal. Whether a foal was orphaned because the dam did not survive parturition or because she rejected him, he requires special care from the very beginning. One aspect of his care that requires the most attention is his nutrition.

Mary Rose Paradis, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM (LAIM), an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts, in North Grafton, Mass., offered advice on the best ways to care for orphan foals’ nutritional needs.

Paradis built on a concept basic to most breeders—that colostrum is essential for a foal’s immunologic protection—and reminded her audience that colostrum is also key to a foal’s good nutritional start. She recommended providing approximately 2 to 3 liters to orphans as soon as possible after birth. While bottle feeding is an acceptable approach, Paradis prefers to tube feed colostrum to ensure foals get as much as possible.

"It’s liquid gold," she said. "I don’t want to lose a drop

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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