On the surface foal nutrition might seem simple: foal nurses mare, nutritional needs satisfied. But in reality foal nutrition is much more complicated, making it important for individuals to understand newborn nutritional needs.

Here, Mary Rose Paradis, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, reviews normal foal nutrition.

Nursing Basics

"The newborn foal is absolutely hungry and wants to eat," Paradis stressed, explaining that neonatal foals have very limited liver glycogen concentrations and experience a drop in glucose levels shortly after birth. This is likely the reason the foal feels hungry and seeks out the mare’s udder in the first place. Most foals, she said, will stand and suckle in 90 minutes to two hours.

The first milk the foal consumes is the mare’s colostrum. Paradis explained, "Colostrum is higher in gross energy, specific gravity, total protein, and vitamins A and D" than mare’s milk.

It also provides about 50% more energy than regular mare’s milk, she said.

"Depending on the quality and quantity of the colostral meal, it will help maintain the foal’s glucose in the normal range for 10 to 20 hours," she noted.

Initially after consuming colostrum, foals nurse six to eight times per hour and consume about 80 milliliters of milk per meal. As foals’ metabolism slows and they age, she said, they will nurse one to two times each hour until they’re weaned.

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