When is a good time to wean, etc.
When is a good time to wean....
Time To Wean the Babies
For those of us who like to wean foals early, that time is about now! The basic rule of thumb is the foal of full size mares can be weaned when they reach 3 months of age and 300 pounds of body weight. There are several advantages to early weaning and maybe a few disadvantages, all of which we will discuss.
By now the foals are eating with their mothers. They have learned to eat grain and hay, and as many of you have witnessed, even fresh horse manure. Of course the latter is the way the foals populate their intestinal tract with the bacteria needed to digest roughages. Loading up on bacteria improves the efficiency of digestion so the foal gains a great deal more nutrition from what it eats.
Once you see the foal eating grain with mom, a creep feeder can be built to provide the foals with grain of their own. The creep feeder should be built in a location near where the mare eats. It will not take a curious foal long to discover the location of the feed. For a few days the foal may not clean up all the grain. If you find leftovers, feed them to the adult horses. Keep fresh feed in the feeder and you will soon notice the foals streaking to the feeder for a few bites while mom is out to pasture.
The grain for the foal should be 16% protein and at least 3 % fat (the second ingredient listed on the feed tag). This can be formulated from the all-grain mom is eating plus another source of protein such as soybean oil meal. The easiest approach is to purchase one of the many prepared feeds formulated for the foal.
The maximum amount of grain the foal should eat in a day is one and one half percent of its body weight. For the four hundred pound foal that would be six pounds. Measured in the universal horse feeding system that would be the equivalent of one full and one half full three pound coffee can. Actually, the foal will do very well on four pounds (for this four hundred pound foal) or one percent of its body weight in grain per day.
They will be picking at the grass or hay that mom is eating, but the best hay should be offered to the foal. They will eat at least two percent of their body weight in roughage per day. This is not too important until the foal is confined for weaning and you are the source for all the grain and hay. One of the advantages of early weaning is that the mare can be turned out to pasture. Feeding only the foal is more efficient than feeding the mare to produce more milk for the foal. The foals use of milk peaks after six weeks of age, as does the mares production. The increased needs of the foal are met by grain and grass as the production of the mare starts tapering off.
When you (and your almanac, if you are inclined) decide to wean you must decide how and where to do so. When possible, the easiest approach is to leave the baby with the rest of the horses and move the mare to some distant point where she cannot be heard. If there is more than one similar aged foal to be weaned, they can be weaned together so they have each otherís shoulder on which to cry. If there is a lone foal to wean, the most secure environment must be provided the first forty eight hours after it is separated from mom. During this time period the foal will go over any obstacle to be reunited. Moving the mare out of hearing of the foal will of course help. There are many different approaches to the weaning process. All are fine as long as the foal and mare are safe and can be kept apart for at least a month.
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