Best way to wean foals - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 01:23 AM Thread Starter
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Best way to wean foals

Hi Everyone,
I waswondering in the opinions and experience of the members here what is the best, least stressfull way to wean baby off mama. I have a colt and a filly both nine months old, still suckling that need to be weaned. The colt's mama is losing weight too fast now, she has bad teeth, due for a float end of month, but would like to ensure all resources she recieves now go to her and only her.
Is it better to remove them completely, put mama as far away as possible, obviously keeping them with other older horses they know and trust. Or is gradual weaning better? I unfortunately do not have two secure enough camps next to each other where they can see each other, but not succkle thru the fence.
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post #2 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 07:43 AM
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I personally prefer going cold turkey. Almost all the babies that we've brought home have been loaded in the trailer with mama, then held and mama taken back off. They yell for a day or two then decide everything's okay.
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post #3 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 10:05 AM
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I had my mares and foals with the rest of the herd, and they basically did all the weaning themselves. They have other horses to play with and buddy up to, so it's way less stressful. Depends a little on the personalities of mama and baby too. I had one pair where mama wouldn't let go of baby. Only when she was pregnant again she would fully wean him.
With 9 month they shouldn't suckle for food anymore, more for morale support.
If your mare is in need of dental work anyway her weight should improve after.
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post #4 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 10:12 AM
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Once they're on feed and hay they get separated. I actually think it's less stressful than keeping on putting them together, then separating. Because after a couple days they usually chill.
You do it the slow way they keep getting some sort of stress. Of course they'll get used to it but id rather get it done and over with.
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post #5 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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Hi guys
Thanks for all the responses. Yes I know the nursing is more habit than need, the two problems I have is this: the colt's mama has dropped about one point on the body condition score in the last month. The filly's mama is due for backing asap and not sure how much still having a nursing foal distract her. The colt I doen't seem to search overly much for mama if she's not around. She was away the whole day yesterday working cattle on our other farm. He seems to miss her, but doesn't scream or call for her. The filly's never been seperated from mama yet, so not sure what's going to happen there.
Was thinking of keeping the foals in the stable paddock where I can keep an eye on them accompanied by my 20 year old gelding who have raised more foals than I can count and one of my mares. Still debating on whether to keep the filly's grandma with them or my Appy mare who likes the foals very much, to the point of sharing her food with them. Ther mares will be taken back to the veld camp where they came from, out of sight, unfortunately not out of earshot, but that might be hard, farm is only so big.
They will get lucern 2x a day, unfortunately the paddock doesn't have a lot of grazing, but will see what I can do.
The colt's mama is due for a float, My equine dentist is due end of the month so hopefully that will help some. She is not a "good doer" at the best of times and needs a float every three months or she drops weight like nobody's business. I'm scared she goes from a three to a two body score. So much more weight to get back onto her again later.
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post #6 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 01:41 PM
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Could you gradually remove the mamas? First the colt's since he's doing better without her? That way the foals would still have the herd structure. They do have an aunt in the ally mare. Idea behind it is that the "single" colt would stick more with the filly, and take her for adventures and so make it easier on her when her mama goes. And start taking her mama out a little at a time.
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post #7 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 01:45 PM
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Go ahead and laugh, but I wean by moon phases and pick the good days for weaning, and I pull mamma off and either send her out somewhere that they can't see or hear each other or I put the foals in a separate paddock, together. I like to wean more than one foal so they can have a buddy, but if need be, they can go it alone. I think it's more stressful for us than for them really. If I can't get mamma off the property, then I like to put her in a barn stall for a week or 2 and after that, she's less interested when she's turned out. I don't let them be together again for at least 2 months, so mom can dry up and gain her weight.

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post #8 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 02:24 PM
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In my limited experience, it seems like I might prefer a bit of both. The one foal I've raised since birth was accustomed to being away from momma at a very young age because I would often take him out while working on his manners and training. Leading, tying, farrier, baths, etc were all done away from his mother for relatively short times...usually no more than 15 minutes to start when he was just a few weeks old and working up to a couple of hours.

After that, when I was finally able to wean him at about 9-10 months (didn't have adequate fencing to safely separate them before then), it was as easy as taking him away from his mother, keeping him in a pen for a few days, and then turning him out into the big pasture of geldings. There was very little calling during the first day and none afterward. Neither of them really even noticed they had been separated.

However, if it's a matter of one or the other, I would go cold turkey. The sooner you get the baby completely off his momma, the sooner she can start keeping all those nutrients for herself.

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post #9 of 9 Old 09-07-2012, 03:47 PM
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We didn't breed to have a 'herd' we bred to raise good riding horses. Our foals were handled from birth with their mothers, by the time they were weaned at 6 months they knew all about being handled and led.
The mares used to go away for a couple of months as they knew all about loading etc so less stressful all around. The foals would be fastened in a stable together - always had them in two's - while this happened and depending on how settled they were they either went out into the paddock or stayed in for the night.
I never had any pining issues, we quite often turned an old pony out with them as extra calming influence and their education continued. By the time they were ready to break they were so used to being messed about with it was just a minor step along the way.
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