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More on weaning problems and your horse or foal.
More on weaning problems and your horse or foal.

WEANLINGS AND RELATED PROBLEMS

Weanlings present unique management situations.  They are in the stage of their lives when they will be growing rapidly, socializing, starting to feel the effects of the sex hormones, and doing all of this without mother.

We want the weanlings to grow and mature, but not to become fat.  The youth feeds are formulated for growth without adding excessive condition.  This provides for the growth the foal is genetically capable of achieving, without excessive weight.  Even with foals, the feed should be fed according to the guidelines we have previously discussed.  Grain in the amount of 1% of the body weight is usually sufficient for maintenance.  When this is increased to 1½ %, the foals will usually become a little fat.  For the four hundred pound foal, maintenance would be 4 pounds of grain fed daily; while 6 pounds should add enough condition to have the foal in show shape, so to speak.

Roughage must be provided along with grain.  Grass, if available, will provide the roughage requirements very well.  If alfalfa is available, it can be used to supplement the grain.  It does not need to be used as the only source of roughage, but when a small amount (one block or leaf fed with the grain) is fed it complements the grain very well.  Of course, the foal will grow out well on grass with a small amount of grain (.5 % of body weight )!

We like to feed the foal grain with 16% protein during its first year.  That can be reduced to 14% when the foal becomes a yearling.  If alfalfa is being fed, the grain should be a lower protein.  Most alfalfa hay will have a protein % in the high teens or even higher.  Excessive protein actually irritates the lining of the bowel and inflames the tissue lining it.  As a result:
The intestine becomes hyperactive.
The feeds pass through before they are digested.
This results in inefficient digestion, wasted feeds, lower than expected body condition, and a loose stool.

The latter is the first and easiest to diagnose.  As we have touched on this delicate subject before, we know to watch the stool anytime the ration is changed or even suspected.  If the stool is loose and just piles up, the bowels are moving the feed through before it can be digested.  The same effect will be seen with high protein feeds and when large amounts of any feed are fed.  If the stool is loose, too much concentrated feed is being fed and wasted.

If, on the other hand, the stool consists of very hard biscuits that bounce when they hit the floor, some adjustment is needed.  The ration is probably high in fiber that is low in digestibility.  This may be evident when grass hay is all that is fed, or grass hay is being supplemented with a low-protein feed.  If Bermuda hay is the only roughage, the stool will be very hard.  Bermuda hay fed as the only roughage is the cause of some pretty difficult impaction colic cases.  If fed with alfalfa or plenty of grass, there is rarely a problem.

The ideal stool is formed as biscuits, but breaks up when it hits the ground.  Extreme variations from this ideal will eventually be the source of problems.

Next week we will discuss the problem of ulcers in the weanling. If you have never had a foal with this problem, this should be of interest.  The more your foals are pushed for weanling or yearling shows, or for early performance, the more likely you are to have a foal with ulcers.  By the time you get the foals’ ulcers healed, you may very well develop the same problem yourself!

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