Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How and What to Feed an Orphan Foal

Wow, since I introduced my baby, several people have asked about how and what to feed an orphan foal, so I will share what I have learned. Please, keep in mind that this is all simply from my research online, in books, and with vets. I am not a vet and I do not play one on TV.

First thing we'll cover is WHAT to feed. I found more answers for this than I could contain. The common consensus is that the BEST possible solution for the foal is to find a nurse mare. I even learned that you can even rent one in some places. This gives the foal the closest possible solution to its mother's milk...another horse's milk.

If that is not an option you have several choices:
  1. Foal Milk Replacer: The most common is Foal Lac, carried at most feed stores and formulated to mimic horse milk. I have read that you want to keep an eye on a foal with this, as it can cause diarrhea. An equine or porcine electrolyte solution will help with this as well as Conklin Fastrack probiotics. 
  2. Calf Milk Replacer: If you're like me and this is all your feed store carries, it will do as long as it doesn't contain antibiotics. Watch this also, as it can cause scours as well, so you'll want to treat it as I mentioned above. 
  3. Goat's Milk (fresh): Another awesome solution, as it contains antibodies and is natural rather than synthetic. It can be pricey; however, so may not be the best option for some folks. Around $10 a gallon or more and most foals will drink a gallon or more a day. 
  4. 2% Milk: Yup, that's right, people milk...well, cow's milk, really, but the milk that we drink, right from the grocery store. Whole milk has too much fat in it, so 2% it must be. Only one drawback, 2% milk does not contain enough sugar, so you will need to add a tablespoon of honey per pint. How's that for a sweet colt??
So there you go, the best options I found for what to feed your foal. Do your research, check on your own and decide what is best for you and your baby. Most foals will drink 2-4 pints every 6 hours for the first several months. I allow my foal to drink until he is done. At 2 months, we're right at 4 pints a feeding.

Next, HOW to feed.

First thing you have to do (hopefully just for the first feeding, the first few perhaps) is restrain the baby. He doesn't know that you are here to feed him and he is scared of you. It will take more than one person for this first few feedings. The first thing is to restrain the baby. I did not have a helper to take a picture of this, so I borrowed this picture from AQHA's website:
 Hold the baby around the neck and the rump securely so that the person feeding can use both hands to feed the baby.

Feeding has two options, bottle or bucket. I started with the bottle and moved to the bucket. I read that the bottle feeding causes really mouthy babies who become really mouthy horses who don't respect your space.

To bottle feed, you may have to use your fingers to open the baby's mouth a time or two so that you can introduce a bottle. A calf bottle is really too big for most foals. A lamb bottle or a leather glove attached to a soda bottle will work as well. I had to squeeze the bottle a bit the first time so he would realize that there was milk in it, once he figured that out, he sucked it down like a champ.

To bucket feed, once the foal knows the smell of the milk, he may just take to it, that's what my baby did. Others, you will have to show them. Simply guide their muzzle down into the bucket and encourage suckling by putting a finger in their mouth. Once they begin to suck and get the milk, you're all set.

I hope that this information helps someone else. I will post more information as we go. I will post how I halter trained him and taught him to give me his feet, as well as introducing him to the other horses. Thanks for stopping by.

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