Equine Growth and Development
What’s important during this life stage?
- Reproductive function and performance
- Nutrient transfer from mare to foal
- Building immunity for foals
- Digestive health
- Infertility or difficulty getting a mare pregnant
- Postpartum health of the mare
- Common foal diseases, such as scours, rotavirus and Rhodococcus equi
- Growth rate and musculoskeletal development
- Early disease and sickness, such as failure of passive transfer (FPT)
- Nutrient imbalances
Tips for maximizing health and performance
- Remember: Raising a healthy, productive foal starts before birth. Feed mares as usual, up until the last 2 to 3 months of gestation, when energy needs increase to support the bulk of the fetus’ growth. Work with your veterinarian and/or nutritionist to customize the mare’s nutrition program. Poor or inadequate nutrition for the mare can cause stress on her body and may increase the risk of challenges. Consult an equine nutritionist if you are uncertain about your mare’s nutritional needs.
- Keep in mind that the first 24 hours of life are critical. Once the foal is born, observe its behavior closely. The colostrum consumed in the first 24 hours of life is critical to the development of the foal’s immune system. If nursing is a struggle, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss other options, such as colostrum replacer.
- Provide gut-supportive nutrients. Protect the GI tracts of both the broodmare and the foal with pro- and prebiotics, especially during times when they are more susceptible to stress-induced colic and digestive issues. Key times to be aware of are before and after the mare gives birth and during the foal’s transition from milk to solids.
- Monitor the foal’s growth rate. The right balance of protein, minerals and vitamins in relation to calories will influence bone and tissue development. Growing horses have much higher nutritional requirements than mature horses, and nutrient imbalances may lead to musculoskeletal integrity issues.