With foaling season rapidly approaching, many people are checking their foaling kits, and preparing for the big delivery. You’ve got your thermometer, stethoscope, umbilical tape, disinfectant to dip the umbilicus, and lots of towels. The foal is delivered and thankfully, no problems–he’s up and nursing in no time. A few hours later, you go back out to check on the new addition and the foal is lying down and not comfortable. He keeps straining and he’s stopped nursing.

This scenario is all too familiar for neonatal foals. Passing the meconium is, to me, the second-biggest hurdle a foal must overcome after birth–the first, obviously, is making the transition from the protected life within the uterus to life outside the uterus (breathing, standing, nursing).

Here are some of the most common questions I get asked about meconium:

What is meconium? What do foals look like when they are having trouble passing their meconium? When should I call the veterinarian for help? What can I do to help the foal pass his or her meconium, and how do I know when it is all passed?

If you didn’t know the answers to the above questions, we will discuss all of these points, so read on.

What Is Meconium?

Meconium is the first manure produced by a foal, and unlike milk feces, it is hard, dark, and pelleted in nature. The meconium is made up of amniotic fluid and other material the foal swallowed while it was within the uterus. Meconium builds up within the rectum and small colon of foals during gestation and is not expelled until the foal is born.

Passing the meconium often is uncomfortable for foals,