When nature works perfectly, and a newborn foal receives enough colostrum and milk from its mother, all is well with the world.

However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a mare can’t produce adequate colostrum or milk, or the foal is too weak to suckle.

Sadly, the worst-case scenario in which a mare becomes seriously ill or dies also impacts the newborn foal and its access to the right nutrition.

In this article, we’ll take a look at nursing a foal with colostrum and milk replacers, with a focus on the importance of colostrum in its first few hours of life.

The importance of colostrum

Colostrum is a natural superfood. It’s the milk produced by mares immediately before giving birth and up to 24 hours afterwards.

This thick yellow substance is different from the milk that the mare produces later on. It’s vital to the newborn foal’s health as it’s packed full of immunoglobulins, which provide protection from infection until the foal’s own immune system is fully functioning at around eight to 10 weeks.

A foal must take in colostrum within the first 24 hours of its life, preferably when it is eight to 12 hours old. This is because it can only absorb the immunoglobulin molecules during this window.

After the first 24 hours, the mare will replace colostrum with regular milk, which contains the vitamins, minerals, and proteins a foal needs to thrive.

How often do foals nurse?

Before we go into the details of what to do if a foal doesn’t receive the nutrition it needs, it helps to understand how often foals nurse.

A newborn foal will nurse within two hours of birth, typically for one to two minutes and up to seven times an hour.

However, if a foal can’t stand independently or is sleepy, it will not be able to get the nutrition it needs.

It may also lose out on vital colostrum if the mare isn’t producing it in sufficient quantities or if it has leaked out before the birth.

If you have concerns about a newborn foal’s colostrum intake, you should consult your vet. They can advise you on a course of treatment, which could include a quality colostrum replacer such as ProfeSTART® Colostrum Supplement.

As the foal grows, it will space out its feeds to once an hour during the first month, with the majority of foals weaning at around four to six months.

What about other milk replacers?

Just like colostrum replacers, milk replacers can also play a vital role in aiding the development of foals.

When a mare cannot produce enough milk to sustain her growing offspring, a foal milk replacer will come in handy.

ProfeLAC® ESSENTIAL and ProfeLAC® GOLD are quality milk replacers available from ProviCo Rural containing all the vitamins, minerals, and probiotics a growing foal needs. It’s easy to make up a feed mixing the powdered milk replacer with warm water. You can rest assured that your foal is receiving essential nutrition for healthy growth.

Feeding foals from birth to weaning

We’ve seen how important it is to monitor a foal’s nutritional intake right from birth and through the early months.

We know how crucial timing is for the foal to receive essential protection against disease from its mother’s colostrum in the first few hours of life.

It’s also worth noting that as a foal grows, it will need a continuous supply of milk to promote healthy development. In fact, a foal weighing 50 kg will require around 15 litres of milk a day!

Fortunately, help is at hand if your mare is unable to supply adequate colostrum and milk. To know more about how colostrum and milk replacers can enhance your foal’s feeding regime, contact the friendly and knowledgeable team at ProviCo Rural.