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Weaning Foals

Weaning time is always a dreaded time on the farm. There is nothing worse than watching your poor foal in sheer panic as they run up and down the fence line calling for its mother. It can be a stressful time for anyone, and if you arenít prepared it can seem like an eternity. So the question is then- how can we make the weaning process as painless as possible? Here is a quick refresher course, along with some top strategies, on the weaning process in general.


The Weaning Process

There comes a time in every foal’s life, where they must leave the comfort of their mother and go out into the world. For most this occurs between 4-6 months of age. There are a few guidelines that can be used to determine if your foal is ready for separation. Some mature faster than others, so consider the following:

  1. He is socialized with the rest of the herd. They need to be able to handle themselves with others, as they will no longer have mom to protect them.
  2. Be nutritionally independent. The foal should consume most of its nutrients from solids such as grass, hay, and grain. Milk consumption is more of a comfort thing.
  3. Be emotionally independent. As a foal ages, they begin to gain confidence in their ability to explore the world. A foal ready for weaning can leave his/her mother’s side with little anxiety or fear. Weaning too early can lead to stress on an emotionally immature foal.

Usually the best way to go about this is cold turkey. Separate the mare and foal, and don’t allow them to see or hear each other. They should remain separated for at least 2-4 weeks, but even longer is better. Some schools of thought believe that gradual separation is best, allowing your foal to see the mare on the fence line but not actually nurse. Do your own research on the subject and discuss your thoughts with your vet.

 

Planning the Wean

Preparing beforehand goes a long way in making the process as painless as possible. Here are some tips that will help you get a jumpstart on the process:

  1. Give your foal time to get accustomed to their weaning stall or pasture. Make sure that it is safe and stable, and give your foal a few weeks to get acclimated. This will result in less stress and shock when the weaning begins.
  2. Distract them. If there are older mares or foals to preoccupy your young foal, they may not notice for a few days that mom is even out of the picture.
  3. Give them a break. Don’t use this time to vaccinate or halter train them. It will only lead to frustration from both parties.
  4. Give them human interaction. One on one attention may help to further decrease their stress levels. So don’t ignore a stressed out foal, instead brush and talk to them whenever possible.

 

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