Feeding of the foal
Young horses requires a nutrient dense diet because of the size of their digestive system
Foals must receive a diet adequate in energy, protein, vitamins and minerals in order to grow properly and achieve their full genetic potential.
Foals will meet their nutritional needs in their first two to three months with mare's milk as long as the mare is milking properly. In the third month of lactation, the mare's milk production drops while the foal's nutritional needs keep increasing. Feeding the foal a well conceived creep feed will make up the difference.
Besides supplementing the dam's milk, creep feeding will also challenge the foal's system to create the enzymes necessary to digest the more complex nutrients contained in grains. This process takes about 3 weeks. By starting the foal on grain well prior to 3 months of age will prevent a growth slump.
Creep Feeding of Foals
In many situations, it is desirable to give suckling foals an appropriate supplemental feed prior to weaning. Mares that are poor at providing milk, or have impaired production due to disease or other factors, may not produce adequate nutrients for the foal during early lactation. Furthermore, nutrient secretion by the typical mare may not be adequate for the foal after it reaches 3 months of age. One of the most workable practices to ensure adequate nutrient intake for suckling foals is the use of a creep feeder. The creep feeder should be strategically located near places that mares frequent, such as watering or feeding areas, and should be designed to allow the foal access to the feed in a safe manner without injury. Supplemental feed for suckling foals should be provided at least once daily, more often if weather and other conditions indicate. Feed should be provided in liberal quantities so that all foals have free-choice access to feed any time they want to eat. Pellet creep feeds may be preferable to textured feeds because they prevent sorting of ingredients. One of the most important advantages of creep feeding is to accustom foals to eating concentrates before they are weaned. Foals that have been provided with creep feed for a period of several weeks prior to weaning generally eat better after weaning, and may be less susceptible to the stresses of weaning than foals that have not been so fed. Providing supplemental feed in a creep feeder for foals is preferable to having the foal eat the dam's concentrate because the foal's nutrient requirements relative to its energy needs are higher than those of the mare.
We personally prefer to feed our foals at the same time that we feed our lactating mares.
Since we feed our mares 3 times per day. we place a small amount of creep feed in a separate bucket for the foal.
If the mare insists upon stealing it , we tie her for feeding until the foal has finished.
Nutrient concentrations needed in a creep feed are shown below. You can purchase a commercial feed designed to be fed to young foals , or you can make your own.
* Use the higher levels of protein and calcium with grass forage. ** Use the lower levels of protein and calcium with alfalfa forage. Alfalfa is not recommended for young horses because of the high level of calcium which young horses can not tolerate.
Fresh creep feed should be provided every day. Feed the creep feed at a rate of 0.5 to 1.0 per cent of the foal's body weight per day (1 pound per 100 pounds of body weight or 1 kg/100 kg body weight) up to a maximum of 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.2 kg). For most foals of light horse breeding, this amount of feed is approximately 1 pound (0.5 kg) of feed per month of age.
For those of you that wish to make your own creep or grower feed here is a formula.
Cracked Corn - 50 lbs
Oats - 50 lbs
48 % Soy bean meal - 20 lbs
Molasses - 16 lbs
Fat or oil - 5 lbs
Di-cal phos. 18.5 % phos. - 2 lbs
Feed Grade limestone. - 1.8 lbs
Vitamin Trace mix. - 1.3 lbs (use recommended levels of your mix.)
White salt. .8 lbs
L-Lysine - .4 lbs
Dl - Methionine .2 lbs
Nutrient profile for above.
Crude protein - 14.5 %
Crude fat - 6.4 %
Calcium - .79 %
Phosphorus - .56 %
Lysine - .8 %
Methionine .6 %
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