THE WAY OF HORSES
Copyright © thewayofhorses
By Eleanor Richards
Copyright © 2004
"How soon after foaling does a foal need to nurse?"
The sooner the better. The protective immunoglobulins in the colostrum are more concentrated
in the early hours of lactation. As time goes on milk production will dilute them. Also, the foal's
ability to absorb them decreases as his digestive tract matures. Peak absorption time is
between 2 and 4 hours of birth.
"What is colostrum?"
It is the first fluid a mare secretes from her udder after foaling. It contains the antibodies which
protect the foal from infection.
"How can I be sure the foal received enough colostrum?"
Between 12 and 36 hours of age have your veterinarian take a blood test. This sample can be
checked for IgG concentrations. The test result will tell your vet if the foal has received the
proper levels of antibodies. If the foal has not, a blood transfusion will be done to insure the
foal is protected.
"What if the mare dies, has no colostrum, or won't let the foal nurse?"
If the mare dies or won't let the foal nurse, try to milk her. Let the foal suck from a bottle (use
a lamb nipple). If there is no colostrum contact large breeding farms or a local dairy (bovine colostrum is better
than nothing). Try the web site: Cyberfoal.com. They have a network of stored colostrum across North America
and a listing of nurse mares. Have a plan in place before the foaling date. Being prepared can save a foal's life.
The vet can administer blood plasma intravenously, which will provide the foal with the needed antibodies.
Check with your vet to insure she keeps some in stock.
"How much colostrum should the foal receive?"
An average horse foal should receive 250 ml. of colostrum every hour for the first 6 hours after
foaling. Colostrum can be frozen, but do not thaw colostrum in the microwave...it will kill the