GAIN The Advantage at the foal sales with our expert guide to foal nutrition. Early foals have a distinct physical advantage in that they are naturally at a later developmental stage than their younger counterparts.
Foals born in May and June are still very young and are dependent on their mother’s milk to supply them with the best form of nutrition at this early stage of life. The digestive tract is quite immature and hence owners must exercise caution when attempting to supplement the diet with concentrate feed. The mare’s milk production will start to diminish after about 3 months of lactation so this is a suitable time to introduce a small amount of creep feed for these foals.
In order to control intake foals should be fed separately from their dams and in the case of later born foals they may need to be further separated from older foals within their group to ensure they do not receive an inappropriate amount of feed until such time as their digestive system has developed to consume it.
There are a number of products specifically designed and formulated with the younger foal in mind these products are highly concentrated in protein, minerals and vitamins and hence low feeding rates are required. GAIN Foal Pellets contain milk based proteins making them easy for the younger foal to digest. For foals that have a normal growth curve it is ideal to leave them with their mother until they are approximately 5 months of age providing you have sufficient lead in time to the sales.
Gradual introduction of concentrate feed will help to reduce the stress of weaning at any age; once a foal is weaned itis important that it has a quality source of lysine and threonine in their diet. While these nutrients are limiting for proper growth they are not the only nutritional need of the foal. Sufficient quantities of minerals and vitamins are essential for proper development and health. These also need to be in balance with one another. Commercial feedstuffs are designed with these critical balances in mind.
Foal sales preparation
A preparation programme of 6 weeks is widely recommended.
Foals that are eating well and are sound of limb will prepare well on a standard product from the Stud Range such as GAIN Young Stock or Stud feeds, if your foal requires a considerable amount of finishing GAIN Prep ‘N’ Condition mix is a useful high calorie option. However, if your foal is showing any signs of developmental skeletal problems or an abnormal growth curve a controlled plane of nutrition will be required and these foals will require a concentrated balancer such as GAIN StudCare 32.
The Autumn is also the time of year where grass growth starts to decline and grass quality can vary. While it is ideal to have foals in their natural and healthy environment getting exercise from their daily movements and grazing, it will be necessary to bring foals in overnight when preparing them for the last month/6 weeks with extensive turnout during the daylight hours. When stabled consider the quality of the forage being offered to the foal; excellent quality leafy forage will ensure the foal doesn’t develop a ‘pot belly.’
It is also a good idea to include some high quality alfalfa or Lucerne in the diet as this is both rich in protein and bioavailable calcium but is also highly digestible. As the deadline for the sales approaches try not to panic and ‘push’ your foal too quickly as this can result in the undesirable outcome of developmental orthopaedic disease. Potential buyers do not expect a May or June foal to have the same physical appearance as a February or March born foal so getting them to the sales sound and looking well has to take priority over a robust, mature physique.
Working with your vet and farrier will help to achieve this result, consulting a nutritionist will also help to refine your feeding programme remembering to stick to feeding guidelines is imperative when feeding the younger foal.