As if the anticipation of a newborn foal and a healthy delivery weren’t stress enough, there is nothing scarier than questioning whether or not a foal has had enough colostrum within 12-24 hours of birth. And believe me, a mare that doesn’t seem to be producing sufficient milk afterwards, will make you question that very fact.
First and Foremost: Colostrum is the life-giving substance which prepares a newborn foal for life. Since a brand new baby horse is totally and immunologically, vulnerable to the challenges of the outside world, colostrum deriving from the mare’s teat immediately after birth is Mother Nature’s way of delivering precious antibodies into a foal’s system. A new foal must get enough colostrum through passive transfer, within 12-24 hours of birth. Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where a mare is not producing enough milk several hours later, or the next morning, you must ascertain whether or not the foal received adequate colostrum. I cannot stress this aspect enough.
Determining colostrum intake is often done via a SNAP test or serum chemistry, to ensure antibody levels are adequate.
Of Second Importance: The results of a SNAP test are obtained very quickly – in something like 7 minutes. If it is determined that plasma or frozen colostrum is necessary, it is still important to remember that the foal also needs nutrition for energy. There are a few equine replacement supplements on the market that can help to feed the foal. These include; Equilac, Foalac or Kid Milk (the latter primarily being used for cattle). But it’s important to note that milk replacers DO NOT substitute colostrum.
Once a foal is is verified to have sufficient colostrum levels, providing adequate nutrition is the next big hurdle. Dr. Dennis Rach of Moore & Co. in Calgary, Alberta, gave me this helpful tip recently:
MILK REPLACER RECIPE
Ingredients – 2% Milk + Dextrose (50%)
Mixture – Combined 30-40 mls of Dextrose, per 1 Litre of milk
Dextrose is used as an aid in the treatment of glucose deficiencies in cattle. When added to 2% milk, it provides the nutrients a foal requires, plus, it helps to “sweeten” the milk slightly, to better simulate the taste of a mare’s milk.
If milk replacer is necessary, a foal needs to consume milk replacer every 2-4 hours. (This makes life very difficult, but it needs to be done.) And a foal must consume 16-18% of its body weight in milk per day. For example, a 60 pound foal must consume 6 pounds of milk per day.
Some handy calculations:
1 Quart = 2.5 Pounds
1 Litre = 1 Kilo = 2.2 Pounds
It also possible to induce lactation. Certain treatment protocols have resulted in milk production ranging from 25% to 82% in success rates. However, induced lactation does not begin with a production of colostrum. Domperidone (check it out at equitoxpharma.com) has been used in recent years with good success, to increase endogenous prolactin secretion in mares (either in advancing the onset of reproductive activity in early spring or to counter the ill effects of fescue toxicosis in pregnant mares at term.)
And of course, check out www.cyberfoal.com in you have an orphan foal, or have a mare suffering from agalactia (non-production of milk). This website works!! It has proven to be a valuable tool for matching orphan foals with nurse mares. At CyberFoal.com, you can apply for a nurse mare or post your own mare up for a newborn foal adoption (if she has lost her foal) and help to benefit someone else who may have an orphan. You can also apply for colostrum or read listings as to where colostrum banks may be located. Altogether, CyberFoal.com is a brilliant, valuable website for owners in dire need of colostrum or nurse mare matches.