Feeding the Orphan Foal

Orphan foals raised with a correct balance of nutrients and monitored for growth, food consumption, and weight gain can be every bit as tall, strong, and athletic as foals raised by their dams.
Share
Favorite
Close

No account yet? Register

ADVERTISEMENT

feeding the orphan foal
Orphan foals, raised with a correct balance of nutrients and monitored for growth, food consumption, and weight gain, can be every bit as tall, strong, and athletic as foals raised by their dams. | Photo: iStock
Every breeder dreads finding himself or herself with an orphan foal—a baby left alone when his dam dies of foaling complications or from a later, unrelated injury or illness; or a foal rejected by his mother or for some reason, unable to nurse. Even a foal which can’t derive enough nourishment from nursing his dam (as when she is a poor milk producer), or one prematurely separated from her, can be considered an orphan, because for all intents and purposes, he’s going to depend on you for all of his meals.

Orphans tend to be bad news for breeders for two reasons (quite apart from the tragedy of losing a broodmare). First, they are very high maintenance, particularly in their early days, needing attention every two hours or more, and second, there’s a perception that orphan foals, no matter how conscientiously you raise them, will always be playing catch-up with their peers, and end up stunted and unable to reach their full height or genetic potential.

There’s some truth to the first assumption, but the good news is that there’s none at all for the second. Orphan foals, raised with a correct balance of nutrients and monitored for growth, food consumption, and weight gain, can be every bit as tall, strong, and athletic as foals raised by their dams. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the viability of commercial mare’s milk replacers in producing healthy and correct foals—sometimes even champions.

First Things First

If your foal is orphaned at birth, or rejected by his dam (a problem that occurs an estimated 2% of the time, and is most common with first-time mothers), your first consideration is to get him to ingest some colostrum. That all-important first milk will jump-start his immune system through a process called passive transfer of antibodies. A foal can only absorb and utilize colostrum effectively in the first 12 hours of his life, so time is of the essence

Create a free account with TheHorse.com to view this content.

TheHorse.com is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into TheHorse.com.

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.

Share

Written by:

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She’s written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

When do you vaccinate your horse?
294 votes · 294 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with TheHorse.com!