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Weaning

This is a discussion on Weaning within the Horse Breeding forums, part of the Horse Breeds, Breeding, and Genetics category
  • Getting a foal to eat that hasn't had solid food before weaning
  • Weaning colt properly so mare does not get mastitis

 
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    07-11-2010, 02:48 PM
  #21
Foal
I agree with shesinthebarn weaning at a very young age is a last resort, if you are feeding your mares properly doesn't matter on the age of the mare they can cope, in the wild they don't wean until they are 2yrs old and that's with awful nutrition so a domestic mare with plenty of feed and good pasture should be able to cope with having a foal for 6 months and be back in foal for the next year. If an older mare can't hold condition despite extra feed then it's time to retire or just not put in foal before they get to that stage rather than trying to get one last foal out of an oldie.

Why do you wean that young though - they don't wean naturally at that age at all?? You can't do much with a foal that age so why does leaving it with it's herd for another few months make any difference?? Mares do start pushing babies away once they get to 4 moths old onwards, but how else are they to learn personal space/adult behavior etc - just because you see the mare push her foal away a few times a day does not automatically mean that you should take them away. They still learn lots from mum, they also have security from her being around, so sleep alot which they need to do more than at any other time in their life because they are growing so fast. They are still getting some nutrition too - have you ever actually watched mares and foals interacting at ANY age at all???!!! PLEASE go out and sit in a field for an hour or 2 with mares and foals from 4 months old onwards and watch them interact - you'll learn alot - hopefully!!!! It is the same as selling a puppy at 4 weeks old simply because it is eating like an adult and will cope - it still needs it's mum and litter mates - that's why people don't do it - so why is it ok with a horse? Why do people just think the mare is there as a convenient food source for a foal and that is it??

There ARE so many horses with behavioural issues out there - most stem from what they experience at an early age, and alot do have terrible social skills especially when put in a new herd.
And saying early weaning makes them look to you for everything - uuuum - horses do that if they respect you and see you as herd leader no matter what age they are weaned at, especially if you put the time in when they are young!! - unless you mean because they are physically smaller at that age they give in quicker?

And just because people sell foals at 3 months old and people are willing to buy them is just saying to breeders that people think it's ok to do it, I think there would be an outcry if people saw a 3 month old weaned foal for sale here in the UK!!
Sure a horse will cope and get over it to some extent but that is what their genetics program them to do for survival reasons!! What is the first thing a foal will do when it is stressed - go to mum for a feed which is more of a reassurance once they get to 5 or 6 months old but it helps them to cope with a scary situation until they learn to cope by them selves, which is all part of learning from the mare and how she reacts will determine how baby reacts. If you actually watch them the time they feed after a scare gets less and less as they get older, is it not better to let them learn these things for themselves rather than forcing it on them at a very early age?

If a mare is having to physically hurt her own foal to the extent that you are worried for it's safety to get it to understand to leave her space, then surely the foal hasn't got it yet and needs to be left with her to get that VERY important message to prevent injuries in the future from strange horses or more dominant herd members and to cope as an adult - especially important in breeding stallions??? I doubt a normal mare will hurt its own foal to that extent.

As for mares drying up - when the pasture is not growing as fast as it is in spring and is starting to go to seed in september time, I can dry my mares off after weaning far easier than trying to dry off a mare on lush pasture in the summer time, I don't want my mares getting mastitis.
     
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    07-11-2010, 05:18 PM
  #22
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexart    
I agree with shesinthebarn weaning at a very young age is a last resort, if you are feeding your mares properly doesn't matter on the age of the mare they can cope, in the wild they don't wean until they are 2yrs old and that's with awful nutrition so a domestic mare with plenty of feed and good pasture should be able to cope with having a foal for 6 months and be back in foal for the next year. If an older mare can't hold condition despite extra feed then it's time to retire or just not put in foal before they get to that stage rather than trying to get one last foal out of an oldie.


This would cause a very very bad problem for the next foal if the first one was not weaned by the time the mare foals. So this is not even close to being true or if the mare does not wean the foal by about 11 months the next foal would be in jeperty.

Why do you wean that young though - they don't wean naturally at that age at all?? You can't do much with a foal that age so why does leaving it with it's herd for another few months make any difference?? Mares do start pushing babies away once they get to 4 moths old onwards, but how else are they to learn personal space/adult behavior etc - just because you see the mare push her foal away a few times a day does not automatically mean that you should take them away. They still learn lots from mum, they also have security from her being around, so sleep alot which they need to do more than at any other time in their life because they are growing so fast. They are still getting some nutrition too - have you ever actually watched mares and foals interacting at ANY age at all???!!! PLEASE go out and sit in a field for an hour or 2 with mares and foals from 4 months old onwards and watch them interact - you'll learn alot - hopefully!!!! It is the same as selling a puppy at 4 weeks old simply because it is eating like an adult and will cope - it still needs it's mum and litter mates - that's why people don't do it - so why is it ok with a horse? Why do people just think the mare is there as a convenient food source for a foal and that is it??

There ARE so many horses with behavioural issues out there - most stem from what they experience at an early age, and alot do have terrible social skills especially when put in a new herd.
And saying early weaning makes them look to you for everything - uuuum - horses do that if they respect you and see you as herd leader no matter what age they are weaned at, especially if you put the time in when they are young!! - unless you mean because they are physically smaller at that age they give in quicker?

And just because people sell foals at 3 months old and people are willing to buy them is just saying to breeders that people think it's ok to do it, I think there would be an outcry if people saw a 3 month old weaned foal for sale here in the UK!!
Sure a horse will cope and get over it to some extent but that is what their genetics program them to do for survival reasons!! What is the first thing a foal will do when it is stressed - go to mum for a feed which is more of a reassurance once they get to 5 or 6 months old but it helps them to cope with a scary situation until they learn to cope by them selves, which is all part of learning from the mare and how she reacts will determine how baby reacts. If you actually watch them the time they feed after a scare gets less and less as they get older, is it not better to let them learn these things for themselves rather than forcing it on them at a very early age?

If a mare is having to physically hurt her own foal to the extent that you are worried for it's safety to get it to understand to leave her space, then surely the foal hasn't got it yet and needs to be left with her to get that VERY important message to prevent injuries in the future from strange horses or more dominant herd members and to cope as an adult - especially important in breeding stallions??? I doubt a normal mare will hurt its own foal to that extent.

As for mares drying up - when the pasture is not growing as fast as it is in spring and is starting to go to seed in september time, I can dry my mares off after weaning far easier than trying to dry off a mare on lush pasture in the summer time, I don't want my mares getting mastitis.
You can do as you please with your foals. However do not say that what those who wean early are doing it form monetary reasons and that leaving them with their dam longer will make them any better of a horse as that is fare from the truth. They can learn from the other horses in the pasture just as well as they can from their dams.

I have a whole pasture full of horses weaned at between 3-4 months. Not a single one have any type of problems socially or physically. All top performers.

Also if you have a mare who gets mastitis you might want to have that looked into. As mare do not normally get mastitis like cows do and they do not need to be dry before they foal out again like a cow does.
     
    07-11-2010, 06:10 PM
  #23
Green Broke
Ok well here is a question for you. You know how older horses already have trouble keeping on weight? What about a 30 yr old mare that just had a foal. We are going to be weaning any time now and the colt is now 4 months old. She looks terrible because of her age is hard enough to keep weight on her much less sparta taking all of her nutrition!
     
    07-12-2010, 05:28 PM
  #24
Started
Wait you bred her when she was 30?
     
    07-12-2010, 09:22 PM
  #25
Green Broke
I didn't breed her! Heavens no we bought her bred. And they had lied about her age. They said she was around 15-17 but with a vet check and people who have known her from long ago said she was well into her late 20s possible early 30s. She is still kicking though and she had a beautiful foal with no complications. And she will NOT be bred again. We don't bred horses as to much can go wrong when breeding. But we went ahead and bought her pregnant in December and she had sparta in march
     
    07-12-2010, 11:33 PM
  #26
FHF
Foal
You know what to do.

Have had older mares in the past that looked great when bred and got poor after colt was born. It is time to wean especially if the foal is pulling her down. I always wean between four and six months. I do a lot of work with colts at this age and working with them is a lot easier if they are weaned. I have only had positive experiences weaning this way. Would the foal rather be with its mother, Yes. But when transitioned with a pasture mate I have never seen any adverse effects. To each his own.

Something to think about though. My daughter who is five now is super smart (I am biased though) and in the 90th percentile. I had to put her on formula at one month and she is just fine. Horses when weaned and supplemented with proper nutrition do just as well.

I have nursed calves that where pushed away from their mothers too young and they turned out great too.

Just something to think about. But of course it is only my opinion.
     
    07-13-2010, 05:00 AM
  #27
Foal
OK if you still think weaning so early is a good idea then please read this:http://www.ker.com/library/Proceedin...roTract_p7.pdf

It is not just the mental health of a foal that is a problem - studies have shown that a foals levels of enzymes that breakdown solid food reach adult levels between 3 and 6 months of age - depending on genetics, it also shows that the length of a foals gut, and therefore the surface area which can absorb food, does the most growing up until they are 6 months old - so by weaning a foal that does not have a gut working at full capacity to digest forage and that has not even finished growing to allow maximum absorption of forage/hard feed you are actually physically setting it back. They have also found that the gut grows almost like an organ so the better it grows at the start is what it is like through adult hood.
I can understand weaning early if a mare is physically sick and risks death if the foal is left on her, but milk replacer should still be provided as the enzymes that break it down are still at high levels up until 6 months and older.
     
    07-13-2010, 10:41 AM
  #28
Green Broke
I believe I read somewhere that the dam's milk only carries nutrition up untill 3-5 months. So wouldn't that make the milk just a filler then? My little colt rarely drinks now and he gets his on ration of grain along with hay, and he eats grass fine. He doesn't seem tore up in the stomache or his manure would be loose and look more like cow patties than horse manure. He definitely has horse manure it's just small because he's a baby = )
     
    07-13-2010, 11:01 AM
  #29
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilkitty90    
i believe I read somewhere that the dam's milk only carries nutrition up untill 3-5 months. So wouldn't that make the milk just a filler then? My little colt rarely drinks now and he gets his on ration of grain along with hay, and he eats grass fine. He doesn't seem tore up in the stomache or his manure would be loose and look more like cow patties than horse manure. He definitely has horse manure it's just small because he's a baby = )

Yes this is true. Mares milk at about 3 months starts to decline in both quantity and quality. Past that mark it will decline quite a bit in quality. I have had mares who still have milk when the foal is a year or older even when the foal was weaned at 3-4 months. My 30 yo who has not had a foal in several years if you where to check her would still have some liquid. Would not call it milk.
     
    07-13-2010, 11:08 AM
  #30
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexart    
OK if you still think weaning so early is a good idea then please read this:http://www.ker.com/library/Proceedin...roTract_p7.pdf

It is not just the mental health of a foal that is a problem - studies have shown that a foals levels of enzymes that breakdown solid food reach adult levels between 3 and 6 months of age - depending on genetics, it also shows that the length of a foals gut, and therefore the surface area which can absorb food, does the most growing up until they are 6 months old - so by weaning a foal that does not have a gut working at full capacity to digest forage and that has not even finished growing to allow maximum absorption of forage/hard feed you are actually physically setting it back. They have also found that the gut grows almost like an organ so the better it grows at the start is what it is like through adult hood.
I can understand weaning early if a mare is physically sick and risks death if the foal is left on her, but milk replacer should still be provided as the enzymes that break it down are still at high levels up until 6 months and older.
Oh yes and 3-4 months fits right in that age group. Past the 3-4 month stage they are not getting much nutrition for their dams. They are eating just fine.

Lets see weaned at 3 1/2 months.



Weaned at 3 1/2 months. Picture as a long yearling.



Weaned at 4 months


One if the hardest horses I have owned to keep weight on was a stallion I had who was left on his dam until 7-8 months. All the ones weaned between 3-4 months have been easy keepers.
     

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