Weaning Options for Foals

Weaning Options for Foals

Misery loves company. If you have more than one foal, wean at least two at a time and keep them together.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Weaning time can be stressful, but proper preparation of the foals and the mares for weaning can make the process much easier for everyone! Most foals are weaned at about 4 to 6 months of age, depending on the condition of the broodmares and the management plan of the owner.

There are a number of different ways to actually handle weaning, depending on how many foals you have and the physical layout of your facility. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  • There is probably less stress on the foal if it remains in the pen or paddock where it is accustomed to being instead of being moved to a new location. Move the mare, not the foal if possible.
  • Misery loves company. If you have more than one foal, wean at least two at a time and keep them together. If you have only one foal, perhaps you have a nice old tolerant gelding who can be a babysitter. Mares of recently weaned foals also do better with company.
  • Make certain the pen and paddock are safe with good fencing and no hazards.
  • Out of sight (and hearing), out of mind. Many believe mares and foals tend to quiet down faster if they cannot see and hear each other after weaning. There are some differences of opinion on this element of weaning management, however.
  • A few days prior to weaning, reduce the grain intake on the mare to prepare her to dry up from milk production. Her milk production started decreasing significantly at 2-3 months of lactation. Make certain that she can continue to get exercise to minimize swelling and discomfort post weaning.

Monitor the new weanlings fairly closely and adjust feed intake to maintain growth and body condition. Foals should be consuming about 1 pound of a suitable foal feed per month of age at the time they are weaned. (For example, a 4-month-old foal should be consuming about 4 pounds of feed per day.) Some weanlings become a bit pot-bellied and look a little rough following weaning. This is frequently due to inadequate feed intake and too much forage.

Proper preparation can minimize the stress of weaning for foals and broodmares and make for a more pleasant experience for all.

Reprinted with permission from The Feed Room, by Nutrena.

About the Author

Roy A. Johnson, MS

Roy A. Johnson, MS, is an equine technology manager for Cargill Animal Nutrition. In his role, he is responsibile for the development of horse feeds for U.S. business, including feeds for Nutrena, ACCO, Agway, and private label brands. A former professional horse trainer, farm manager, and horse judging coach, Johnson was an assistant professor in the Agricultural Production Division at the University of Minnesota-Wasecae before joining Cargill. Johnson has also participated in a successful Thoroughbred racing partnership.

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