Young foals are entirely dependent on the mare’s milk to provide all of their nutritional needs.
Yet there are occasions when that milk is just not enough. Mares that have been ill, older mares, and some maiden mares may have reduced milk quality and yield. The mares diet can be manipulated to help her produce a higher quality milk, but the improvement may take time. In the interim, the foals nutritional demands must be considered carefully.
Foal illness can also put additional pressure on the mare’s milk to meet increasingly challenging nutritional requirements. Sick foals often stop nursing for a period or will nurse less frequently* which reduces their intake of essential energy and vitamins, potentially worsening the situation.
Friska Foal, with its multi-vitamin and prebiotic formulation, has been specifically developed to complement the mare’s milk and support the needs of young foals. It provides a nutritional boost for foals that are at risk of a nutritional gap, that aren’t thriving or have had health problems. It is a liquid supplement and foals love the taste, so Friska Foal is widely accepted, even when they are off their food.
Friska Foal is given once or twice daily and is safe for use from 24 hours of age. Many studs incorporate Friska Foal into the standard management of all foals for the first week or weeks of life. It is ideal to be given to foals during periods of stress, e.g. travelling with the mare.
The nutritional requirements of foals are not just smaller versions of those of an adult horse. The growth phase in foals is rapid, with normal rates of around a 1kg weight increase per day. High levels of vitamins are required to sustain this growth rate, without compromising integrity.
The rapid rate of musculoskeletal growth requires calcium, phosphorus, protein, energy and vitamin D. Skeletal growth is obvious to see, but many other systems are also developing at this stage and they are also very reliant upon key vitamins.
Foundations are set now for the potential future athletic career of the foal, so providing essential vitamins to sustain healthy growth and a strong immune system, will pay dividends over time.
Foals suckle from their mothers several times an hour. If a foal is healthy, but not getting enough milk, it will be up more and trying to nurse much more often than normal. The hungry foal will push consistently and aggressively at the mare’s udder, in stark contrast to a foal that is receiving a plentiful amount of milk, drinking and swallowing in a relaxed manner.
In this situation, attempts should be made to increase the amount of milk that the mare is producing by adjusting the diet, (more grass may help) or your vet may advise using certain drugs. The foal can be fed a milk replacer in addition to drinking from the mare, or a foster mare may be required in extreme cases.
If you believe your foal is not getting enough milk then veterinary advice must be sought immediately, even a healthy foal that is not receiving enough milk can deteriorate very quickly.
Sick foals should be under the supervision of your veterinarian and depending on the severity of their condition they may need to be hospitalised, removed from the mare and given intravenous nutrition/ total parenteral nutrition.
For less severe cases that are still nursing or are receiving a milk replacer, the multivitamin and prebiotic formulation of Friska Foal is particularly beneficial. It focuses on increasing the intake of vitamin A, D, and E, plus a range of B vitamins, while providing a prebiotic to help support the early development of the gut microflora. The vitamin package supports a range of developmental and immune functions, as well as energy and protein metabolism and mucosal development and integrity. The B vitamins will promote appetite, ensuring the foal continues to nurse or consume its milk replacer readily, as well as supporting red blood cell health.
One health condition which is relatively common and can be devastating to foals is diarrhoea. The prebiotic in Friska Foal may support the growth of “good” microbes in the gut, promoting recovery from diarrhoea, alongside any necessary veterinary treatment. The antioxidants in Friska Foal will support the immune system while it is fighting and recovering from infection, and the B vitamins will optimise appetite and metabolism, utilising energy and protein efficiently to support growth and reduce further compromise.
Friska Foal is designed as a nutritional supplement to support normal foal development and immune health, it is not a replacement diet. If you have a sick foal under veterinary supervision, approval should be sought before adding Friska Foal to the diet.
* Veterinary attention is immediately required for foals that have stopped nursing. Foals may deteriorate rapidly so prompt intervention is essential. Diarrhoea in foals may be fatal.
If you’re looking for any advice on feeding your foal, why not get in touch with one of our equine nutrition experts?