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Proper Feeding During Weaning

You can set the stage for a healthy adult horse and an unharried horse owner by following certain steps when weaning time arrives at your farm. Both before and after weaning you should make sure the youngster receives the appropriate vaccinations.
To set up a vaccination and deworming program for your weanling you should visit with your veterinarian since the suggestions will vary due to your local conditions.

For the most part you can wait until five months old before vaccinating the foal for tetanus, rabies, eastern and western equine encephalitis and flu/rhino if the weanling isnít on the go. Vaccinating for West Nile virus at four months may be recommended by some veterinarians. Ten days after foaling and every thirty days afterwards for the first year you should deworm with an ivermectin product.
You weanling should receive adequate nutrition. Four to six months is the normally weaning for foals. For the first two or three months the milk production of the mare is usually enough to provide the desired growth rate and then declines to a level that will not support the foalís optimum growth rate.

The foal can consume their feed without having to compete with the dam through creep feeding. It is best to start creep feeding at three to four weeks. At this time you should provide access to good quality hay. For the first two or three months you should feed at the rate of one percent of body weight or one pound per month of age if the mare is producing a normal amount of milk. If milk production is not sufficient for the desired growth rate than more feed may be needed.

For breeds such as quarter horses, thoroughbreds and paints it is a good rule of thumb that a foal consuming four pounds of feed per day can be successfully weaned around three to four months. After weaning the amount of feed should be increased to 1 Ĺ percent of body weight with adjustments according to desired growth rate, hay quality and amount consumed.

It is a good idea to use a premium horse feed that is specifically designed for weanlings with a high-quality protein source and an optimum, guaranteed lysine level. The risk of developmental orthopedic disease, founder, colic and diarrhea is increase if a weanling is being overfed so you should make sure you donít provide too much of a good thing.

For a well-trained horse you should train your foal to obediently lead. You can often start by haltering the foal and then lead the youngster behind the dam. On young foals a rump rope works well since if you apply too much pressure with a halter the baby can fly backwards. A device called the Baby Trainer has been found to work exceptionally well for some trainers even when the weanlings are larger and havenít had much handling.

Starting out by leading the mare ahead, then leading her in the opposite direction while continuing to lead the foal in the original direction, is the best option. With the Baby Trainer pressure applied on the foalís rump. You donít have to worry about dropping it and it is safer than a lead rope that is run behind the horseís legs. In addition, it is easy to use and the foals often understand concept without having to be forced. Some colts can be taught to lead with it.



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