Foaling advice

By: Horse Deals

Foaling advice
Foaling advice

Bernadette O’Sullivan and Tim Harris of Woodcroft Stud in Cambridgeshire share their expertise on how to feed a pregnant mare and care for mum and baby during the foaling process…

- We feed a good stud mix so that the in-foal mares have a balanced diet – this is particularly important in the last three months of pregnancy and during lactation.

- I know my mares very well and can usually tell when they are about to foal. They can change shape, wax up, become restless and start to sweat up. Two of my mares are caslicked, or stitched, so it is particularly important that these mares are seen by the vet before foaling.

- The most important thing to make sure is that the foal arrives safely and stands and drinks in good time. If things are going OK I tend to leave the mares alone, but if I’m in any doubt I call my stud vet whatever time of night it is. Once things start to go wrong, it can all happen very quickly.

- Once the foaling has happened, we normally make sure the foal is breathing then try to leave it to stand and drink, but some need a little help to find the milk station!

- I think you have to judge each mare individually; they can be very foal proud in the first few days particularly. They are just following their natural instinct and protecting their young foals. I respect their space and let them get over it. I have always got the National Foaling Bank’s number to hand. Joanna Vardon does a fantastic job and is on hand night and day for any orphaned foals or mares that have lost their foals.

- I call our vet out on the morning the foal has been born to give the foal an antibiotic injection, check the heart, eyes and general wellbeing of the foal and also to check the mare has cleansed properly.

- If the foal is quite strong then they can go out very quickly after the injection, but we make sure the mare does not run the foal around too much and that the foal can sleep. We don’t put them out for long in the first week.

- I would always choose stabling at night for the foaling so I can make sure all is well. Mares are turned out during the day and we have had a few foals born during the day in the field. However, mares normally choose to foal in the quiet of night when there are fewer predators about.

- We always time how long it is before a foal drinks, it is vitally important that a foal has its first feed with the mare’s colostrum within a couple hours of birth. If they do not get this, the all-important antibodies that are required to see a foal through the first few months of life are in danger.

- If I am in any doubt I will get my vet to do an IGG test. We always treat the umbilical cord as soon at it breaks with an iodine solution or similar. Normally, we give all foals an enema too as it can sometimes be difficult for foals, particularly larger colt foals, to pass meconium.

- We feed foals a mineral supplement starting with just a small handful of Suregrow to start with, but the mare should provide adequate milk in the first weeks of life.

- We pay particular attention to worming in foals and you should ask your vet for advice. We also make sure foals have enough warmth and good shelter.

- A good farrier is very important too to start trimming feet and getting them used to being handled.


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