14 Weaning Management Tips

for horses

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14 Weaning Management Tips for Horses

As with most horse management opinions, creep feeding and weaning management advice will have different views base on individual experiences and facilities. There are a number of factors that influence that decision. The model that I preferred worked most of the time, but there were exceptions, such as:

  • Rebreeding mares that were in a chronic delayed lactational anestrus
  • Mastitis with a first foal mare that sporadically allowed the foal to nurse
  • Swedish warmblood mares that were unique in passing on their exceptional disposition, so was not weaned until 6 ½ months

Feral mares that are pregnant and still have an upcoming yearling hanging around will usually reject nursing attempts by that yearling weeks prior to foaling. I have observed yearlings nursing several times during my experiences tracking and conducting research with the Montgomery Pass wild horses. I have also observed a yearling nursing a mare that had a 1-month old foal. The moral of the story is, never say never.

Weaning Tips

  1. The weaning method will depend on facilities, number of horses, and horse management skills
  2. Wean 4 to 6 months of age
    • Keep weaned foal in familiar surroundings
    • It’s better to remove mare than foal
    • Preferably wean two at a time
  3. Foals should be frequently handled prior to weaning
  4. Foals that are creep fed have less stress and acclimate quicker during the weaning phase
  5. Nursing foals should be acclimated to solid foods prior to weaning
    • If the foal has not been creep fed, delay weaning for 2 weeks until acclimated to a foal-balanced formula such as Integrity Mare & Foal
  6. By weaning age, the foal will consume approximately ¾ lbs of a foal formula per 100 lbs of body weight
    • For a 450 lb weanling that approximates 3½ lbs per day of a balanced formula, which does not include forage consume
  7. Preferred feed form for foals is a pellet size 5/32
    • Foal’s evolving molars require a pellet form that encourages chewing and easy to mix with salvia and swallow
    • Soybean meal must be the primary protein in the balanced foal formula because it contains the highest amount of the critical amino acid lysine
    • Ration balancers are feeds that are concentrated in protein, minerals & vitamins but are not conducive to a balanced diet for growing foals
  8. Remove leftover feed from the previous feeding and provide fresh feed for the next meal
  9. Grass forge should be available
    • Long-stem forage is preferred
    • 20% of the total forage can be alfalfa but do not feed an all alfalfa forage
    • Forage intake will increase as the foal ages
    • No quick rule for increases
    • Limit feeding, no free feeding
  10. Visit with your veterinarian for vaccination/deworming
  11. Growth can be categorized as slow, moderate, and rapid
    • Feeding for moderate growth is adequate
    • Feeding for rapid growth promotes challenges that may have long term growth consequences
  12. Water source height should be appropriate for foals and weanlings
    • Automatic waters are discouraged because they don’t allow for observation of changes in water consumption
  13. Body weight changes vary as the foal ages
    • 46% of mature body weight is reached by 6 months of age
    • 67% of mature body weight is reached by 12 months of age
    • 80% of mature body weight is reached by 18 months of age
  14. Use Body Condition Scoring to track growth but do not emphasize rib area

It’s important to review and discuss weaning with other professionals for options that will best fit your setting. Want to learn more? Creep feeding requirements are also provided in the fact sheet Creep Feeding Guidelines in Dr. Bray’s Corner.

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