Growth rate in foals/maturity hieght

chev

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iloveshearer - with no intereferance your mare might continue to nurse her foal until her next foal is born. It's not a terrible issue in itself, but it does put a big strain on the mare if she's in foal again. I had a colt that stayed with his mum until she foaled again; but he was pretty unique in that every attempt to separate them had him putting himself in physical jeopardy to get back to her. She drove him away a couple of weeks before she foaled again, and he was fine with that, but it's not really something I'd recommend. I have seen horses that refused to wean at all, or who tried to drive the new foal away.

I like to leave foals until they're six months old, as long as the mare isn't losing condition, and wean gradually - separating mare and foal at feeding time and for grooming. I've also found that weaning foals together really helps, and all foals really do need company their own age to be honest.

Is there anyone near you with a similar aged foal who could wean with you?
 

Skyhuntress

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chev said:
Foals achieve around 90% of their adult height by twelve months, on average. Bear in mind that these grpwth charts have been based heavily on TB derived horses; natives, drafts and cobs tend to gain more height later while QH types often reach mature height slightly earlier, so it's not a hard and fast rule.

Weaning at 3.5 months is not ideal at all. Yes it can be done, and yes, in parts of Europe it's standard in some places to wean at 4 months, but that does not make it the best thing to do. Foals can suffer growth retardation if they're not carefully fed when weaned early and it can affect mature height.

By far the most serious implications however are the results of several independant studies that have shown without doubt that early weaning (before the age of 5.5 to 6 months old) significantly increases the risks of the development of gastric ulcers in foals, and of 'vices' like windsucking and cribbing in adult horses.

Remember that a foal left to wean in a feral herd would usually be weaned when his mother drove him away, any time between 8 and 12 months old. Often the youngster wouldn't be weaned until the birth of his mother's next foal was iminent. Now in domesticated situations that's neither neccessary nor truly desirable; but when you consider the enormous stress that weaning causes (whether visible to us or not) it is a shame that so many people are in such a hurry to wean so early.

One independant study of foals artificially weaned at 3 - 4 months old showed that 90% suffered gastric ulcers post weaning, as opposed to less than 10% of foals weaned at six months old. None of these foals would have been diagnosed or treated for ulcers under normal circumstances; the ulcers were noted as a result of the studies. I find that really worrying.

Haha, Chev, we have this argument again ;) I would never let a horse stay on the mare longer then 4.5 months or so (unless there were odd circumstances), and I'll tell you why.

First of all, the foals should already be eating hay/grain with their mothers. They are less dependent on their mothers for nutrition. Peak producution for a mare's milk is 2 1/2 months, and gradually begind to decrease from that point on, losing all nutritional value between the time of 3 1/2 months-4 1/2 months. Secondly, I have never once heard of growth retardation occuring because the foals were weaned too soon-in fact, I've heard the exact opposite. Once weaning occurs, they start getting the nutritional values that they need for a healthy growth that is no longer provided by the mare by eating full rations of hay/roughage instead of depending on the dam.

M. Phyllis Lose, VMD, author of the book, Blessed Are The Foals, takes it a step further. She cbelieves that it would be of benefit to the youngsters if all foals were weaned at 9 weeks of age, providing that they were placed on an appropriate milk sub-stitute and a balanced hay and grain diet. She contends that with today's milk substitutes, along with feeds that are produced precisely for foals, the hand-raised foal often surpasses those raised by mares as to size and development at equal ages, with much stronger bone density.

"Natural" weaning in humans at age two or three, sometimes older, has been proven to slow down mental development. It's possible the same is true for horses, IMO.

In all honesty, I don't think there is a true answer. I know that the equine studies / vetrinarian programs around here are no longer advocating letting a foal stay on the mare longer then 5-6 months max, and instead are pushing weaning between the ages of 3-4 months.

I think the best advice is to take a look at the foal's development, both physically and mentally. If he's growing well and is able to handle weaning, there is no reason why you can't wean early. But if he is not physically developed or is extremely dependent on his dam, there is also no reason not to wait another more or so and make it as stress free as possible
 
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KarinUS

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"Natural" weaning in humans at age two or three, sometimes older, has been proven to slow down mental development. It's possible the same is true for horses, IMO.
Chev is not advocating leaving the foal on for 2 to 3 years. Nursing humans or horses for longer than a year is certainly not the norm.The American Medical Association supports the view that humans should be nursed for a minimum of 6 months exclusively and supplementally for the first year. Why? Because formula fed infants are less protected from infections and more prone to obesity. Since we don't plan on slaughtering humans that's not desirable.
Frankly since my goal with my horses is to keep them long-term it also would not be a benefit to me that formulas artificilly mature them faster.

In all honesty, I don't think there is a true answer. I know that the equine studies / vetrinarian programs around here are no longer advocating letting a foal stay on the mare longer then 5-6 months max, and instead are pushing weaning between the ages of 3-4 months.
Why though? I suspect recommendations like that happen to be awfully convenient for the industry...

I think the best advice is to take a look at the foal's development, both physically and mentally. If he's growing well and is able to handle weaning, there is no reason why you can't wean early.
The reason is that so many negative side effects won't show until way later. Which is of course still rather convenient because the people producing these foals and raising them in a way most lucrative and efficient for them won't have to deal with the fall out. By the time problems surface the foals will have been long sold on.
 

Skyhuntress

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KarinUS said:
Chev is not advocating leaving the foal on for 2 to 3 years. Nursing humans or horses for longer than a year is certainly not the norm.The American Medical Association supports the view that humans should be nursed for a minimum of 6 months exclusively and supplementally for the first year. Why? Because formula fed infants are less protected from infections and more prone to obesity. Since we don't plan on slaughtering humans that's not desirable.Frankly since my goal with my horses is to keep them long-term it also would not be a benefit to me that formulas artificilly mature them faster.
Foals and humans don't mature at the same rate as I'm sure you know ;) It was merely used as an example to say that children who were 'naturally' weaned developed problems later on in life as opposed to those who were weaned at a reasonable age. Since foals and human babies don't mature at the same rate, it'd be ludicrous to say "human babies are breast fed until 6 months, so foals must be as well"

Now I would never advocate weaning earlier then 3 months, simply because a foal is most vulnerable to disease at 1.5 to three months of age, when his passive immunity from colostrum is waning and his own immune system is just starting to kick in. But I simply do not see the point of keeping the foal on the mare much longer then 4 months when a) there is simply no nutritional value, as by week 6, the trace minerals have dropped by at least 75% b) the foal is [or should] be eating solid food on his own c) the foal should already have gained some independence from his dam and be integrating well with the rest of the herd

The reason is that so many negative side effects won't show until way later. Which is of course still rather convenient because the people producing these foals and raising them in a way most lucrative and efficient for them won't have to deal with the fall out. By the time problems surface the foals will have been long sold on.
There is no definite research to suggest that weaning causes any 'later problems' that wouldn't be caused by itself - whether by being ridden too hard, personal injury, poor nutrition, ect. I have yet to hear someone say [or prove] "If you wean your horse before XX, your horse will most definately develop arthritis by 10 years old." I don't think so. To each their own I guess. To date, I've had 12 foals that I've been responsible for. 8 out of the 12 were weaned at 3-4.5 months; with the recommendations of different vets. To date, their xrays are completely clean, blood is clear, they show no complications and are emotionally stable. My current yearling weaned himself at 13 weeks (a bit young-but whatever. He stopped nursing, wouldn't go anywhere close to the mare and cried for a whole 20 minutes once she was gone and that was the whole story) He is currently 18 months and 15.3hh, beautiful bone, healthy coat and extremely independent. There is absolutely no difference between those that were weaned early and the ones who were weaned at a later date.

There is no real answer. There are some definite pros to weaning early, but there are also cons. Same can be said for weaning late. It all depends on how you interpret the 'research' and the type of tradeoffs you are willing to make. It'd be like trying to argue HOW to wean. Is it best to go cold turkey, gradual weaning, or even wean by the signs (wican calendar)?. There is no right answer. It's what works best for you and your foal.
 
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chev

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On what do you base your opinion that later weaning in humans causes problems? :eek: I used to work for La Leche League, and had, as a result, access to a huge library of books and articles on feeding babies, the pros and cons. And in fact what you say about late weaning in humans causing slower mental development is not just innaccurate, it's the opposite of what's true. Extended breastfeeding in human babies results in better accademic achievement, not poorer. It also results in fewer childhood infections, and a far lower risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease in later life, and lower rates of obesity and SIDS.

Interestingly, all four of my kids were fed for extended periods; and the three who are in school are actually getting results way ahead of their year average in school. My eldest, who was weaned very late indeed (especially by your standards!) is currently working two years ahead of her year and still finds it easy.

As for early weaning in foals; it's interesting how much of the advice that's given to support early weaning is affiliated in some way to feed companies. Which is why I tend to take more notice of independant studies that show statistics like 90% of early-weaned TB foals with gastric ulcers, as compared to 10% of later weaned foals. That's not later life at all; that's an immediate result of early weaning, feeding grains that the foal is not honestly mature enough to deal with and stress.

I also disagree that milk replacers are 'better' than mare's milk. Of course it depends on the effects you want really; you get similar results feeding formula to human babies. One study done years ago showed that breast fed babies would need iron supplements because human milk has such woefully low iron levels, as compared to formula. Work done more recently blew that out of the water; despite the much lower iron content, babies actually absorb far more of the iron in breastmilk than they do iron in formula milk. So not only do they generally not need supplements after all, but they tend to have better iron levels than their formula fed peers. It's not good enough to make judgements based solely on what milk contains; how that is absorbed, how each trace element reacts with all the other trace elements and so on has a much more important bearing. Saying that foal pellets contain x more nutrition than milk isn't the whole story by any means. Formula fed babies tend to be heavier and bigger than their breast-fed counterparts; but that does not neccessarily make them healthier. You tread a dangerous path if you measure the success of a foal feeding programme on size and weight; especially with diseases such as DJD on the increase... and that is often a result of feeding too much too young. Foals actually often do far better left to grow on naturally, which reduces the risk of joint diseases for a start.

We cannot even begin to truly replicate mare's milk; there are fatty acids that cannot be artificially substituted for a start. Hand-reared foals suffer higher rates of infections and higher risk of mortality. There are times we need to think about interfering less and letting horses get on with what they were designed to do more.
 
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santana

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sorry this one is the same as the one below (i hate cats they press enter on me :D:eek:)

same chev
i have seen the side affects and they are not good, he was only takeing off mum at 4 months but he should have 16.2 HH but he has made 15.2HH tops and hes five and a stally his haed is too big for his body i get run down for him he is lovly in every other way but that, i hate horses takein off mum before 7 months and its a load of cr*p to take them off before 6 months, no matter what.
nothing is better than horse milk for foals and that should never ever be the reason for takeing them off even because "there is simply no nutritional value, as by week 6, the trace minerals have dropped by at least 75%" mabey so but can you do much better, ??? we have to heat the milk to make it power most often and then mix it and then reheat it and then lose heat as we get it to the foal, WE CANT DO BETTER THAN A MOTHER AND WE SHOULDENT TRY
 
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santana

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Oct 12, 2005
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same chev
i have seen the side affects and they are not good, he was only takeing off mum at 4 months but he should have 16.2 HH but he has made 15.2HH tops and hes five and a stally his head is too big for his body i get run down for him he is lovly in every other way but that, i hate horses takein off mum before 7 months and its a load of cr*p to take them off before 5 1/2 months, no matter what.
nothing is better than horse milk for foals and that should never ever be the reason for takeing them off even because "there is simply no nutritional value, as by week 6, the trace minerals have dropped by at least 75%" mabey so but can you do much better, ??? we have to heat the milk to make it power most often, and then mix it and then reheat it and then lose heat as we get it to the foal, WE CANT DO BETTER THAN A MOTHER AND WE SHOULDENT TRY, i know i have lived on a dariy farm, cows and horses are a lot alike,
i have seen both calf and foals takein off too young and i have see them left on and i know which one i would do any day leave them on its better
rosie