The Newborn Foal

  •  The first milk produced by the mare is called colostrum which is thick and yellowish in colour.
  • Colostrum contains high levels of antibodies, including IgG, IgM and IgA, which are vital for the foal.
  • Transfer of antibodies from the mare to the foal via colostrum is essential to provide the foal with immunity from disease.
  • Foals can only absorb antibodies for a limited period so should receive 20-40ml per kg of bodyweight between 2 and 14 hours of birth.
  • It is always important to check that the foal has had adequate colostrum intake. The vet should take a blood sample when the foal is 1 day old to check the serum antibody status.

Nursing Foals:

  •  Foals can drink up to 25% of their bodyweight per day in milk.
  •  With maiden mares or mares with low milk production, it is important to supplement the mare's milk production by giving the foal Equilac.
  •  This will ensure that the foal is receiving all essential nutrients and is fully hydrated.
  •  From 10 days old it is best to introduce creep feed to your foals diet - our Creep Pellets are ideal to support steady weight gain, provide ideal protein levels and they contain prebiotics to promote digestive function.
  •  The nutritional value of mare's milk begins to decline when the foal is about 2 months old - feeding Creep Pellets will ensure that your foal is receiving all essential micronutrients during this time, such as calcium, phosphorus and copper.
  •  Creep feeding will also provide nutritional support during the 'immunity gap', which occurs between 4 weeks and 4 months of age. This occurs during the changeover in immune protection. Whilst the  foal's immune system is still developing, the protection provided by the antibodies supplied by the mare is declining.


  • Weaning usually occurs at around 6 months of age.
  • During weaning, it is very important to monitor and support the foal's body condition.
  • Often there is a 'slump' in growth rates just after weaning followed by a period of compensatory growth. This may increase the risk of developmental orthopaedic disorders (DOD).
  • As weaning is stressful for the foal and they are likely to be mixing with other youngstock at this time it is important to provide support to the foal's digestive system - Our Creep Pellets contain prebiotic MOS and FOS as well as probiotic Actisaf yeast to help promote a healthy digestive tract.
  • Feeding creep feed alongside good quality hay and turnout should provide the weanling with all their nutritional requirements.
  • Weanlings should be turned out in a field with a minimal worm infestation.

Yearlings to Adult

  • Growth rates are less than in earlier life but tissues are still maturing so it is important that the diet provides enough good quality protein and all the essential vitamins and minerals.
  • It is very important that you regularly monitor bodyweight since excess weight may put unnecessary strain on the joints and limbs, which can lead to growth problems - being overweight can be as dangerous as being underweight.
  • A fat score of 2.5 out of 5 is ideal for your youngster, and you should be able to feel their ribs easily.
  • Feeding Suregrow will provide Youngstock with all their vitamin and mineral requirements.
  • In the winter months when grass quality is poor, the addition of Mare and Youngstock Concentrate to the diet may be necessary to help the youngster keep a healthy body condition.

    Feeding the Orphan Foal

    First Things First:

    • The first milk produced by the mare is called colostrum which is thick and yellowish in colour.
    • Colostrum contains high levels of antibodies, including IgG, IgM and IgA, which are vital for the foal.
    • Transfer of antibodies to the foal via colostrum is essential to provide the foal with immunity from disease.
    • Foals can only absorb antibodies from colostrum in the first 24 hours and should receive 20-40ml per kg of bodyweight between 2 and 14 hours (1-2L for a 50kg foal).
    • If possible, obtain colostrum by hand-milking the foal's dam or another mare that has also recently given birth and is kept on the same premises. If this is not an option your vet may be able to provide you with donor colostrum.
    • Colostrum can be either bottle-fed or if necessary your vet may have to feed it via a stomach tube.
    • It is always important to check that the foal has had adequate colostrum intake. The vet should take a blood sample when the foal is 1 day old to check the serum antibody status.


    • Once the orphan foal has had colostrum you will need to provide a source of milk.
    • The best option is to try and find a suitable foster mare - this can be very difficult and should only be undertaken by someone with experience.
    • It is very important to monitor the mare and foal closely to make sure that the foal is drinking and that mare and foal have developed a close bond.

    Milk Replacer:

    • If a suitable foster mare cannot be found a commercial mare's milk replacer should be used, such as Equilac, which has been formulated specially for foals. Contact your Vet or the Nutritional Helpline for information on how much to feed your foal.
    • For the first week try and bottle feed the foal - young foals usually readily accept being fed from a teat or bottle. Begin by inserting your clean index finger gently into the foal’s mouth to stimulate sucking, then immediately introduce the teat into the foal's mouth.
    • Older foals, from about a week old, can be taught to drink from a shallow bowl or bucket. Again, begin by inserting your index finger gently into the foal’s mouth then gradually lower your finger into the milk replacer.
    • The foal's stomach is very small and so it is essential to feed little and often. For the first few weeks of life orphan foals will need feeding every few hours. Feeding large meals can cause problems such as scouring.
    • As the foal gets older the number of feeds needed each day gradually reduces.
    • If appetite suddenly decreases or the foal is drinking significantly less than the recommended amounts contact your vet or Nutritional Advisor for advice.

    Creep Feeding:

    • From 10 days you can start gradually introducing Creep Pellets to your horse's diet.
    • This will provide an additional source of calories and vital micronutrients to support correct growth and development.
    • Providing a creep feed is also thought to aid the development of the digestive system and reduces the risk of digestive disturbances post-weaning.
    • Creep Pellets should be fed in in several small meals per day


    • Orphan foals should have free access to fresh clean water.


    • In the first week of life the foal will normally pick at forage.
    • It is important to make sure that any forage fed is highly digestible as the foals digestive system isn’t fully matured.
    • Hay is preferred over haylage as haylage can cause diarrhoea in young foals.


    • Interestingly, even orphan foals tend to develop slight diarrhoea at around 7-14 days of age. This is the same period when foals suckling their mothers develop 'foal heat'W scours.
    • If scouring persists for more than 48 hours or is severe you should contact your vet as this could lead to dehydration.
    • It is very important to make sure that you are feeding your foal little and often.
    • It is also very important to keep your feeding equipment clean as poor hygiene may lead to scouring.


    • Every foal is different and the age at which you can begin weaning will vary. However, weaning should never be attempted before 3 months of age.
    • If the foal is strong enough and consuming the recommended quantities of Creep Pellets weaning can begin from 3 months of age.
    • Gradual weaning is preferable; start by reducing the volume of Equilac fed per meal and then gradually reduce the number of meals per day

    Contact us for advice on how to get the best from your horse

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