Best Feed For Weanling Horses

Daniel Brown
• Monday, 02 November, 2020
• 8 min read

This can be a stressful time, both emotionally and nutritionally, but keeping these tips for weaning horses in mind can ensure a smooth transition and continued healthy growth. Foals will start to show interest in feeds very early on and, by around two months of age, their mother’s milk will no longer supply all the nutrients needed for optimum growth.

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For example, a 3-month-old would ideally be eating about three pounds of feed per day, in addition to milk and free choice hay or pasture. A weaning horse already accustomed to eating an adequate amount of dry feed will transition to life without mom much easier and will be ready to maintain nutrient intake at a level that can sustain optimum growth. Feeds formulated for adults will not provide the necessary nutrients for your baby to fulfill their genetic potential and may cause deficiencies and increase the risk of growth abnormalities.

Purina feeds formulated for growing foals include Cultism ® Growth, Imogene #300 ®, Strategy ® GO, Equine Junior ® and Enrich Plus ®. Plotting your weaning horse’s height and weight over time should show a smooth, steady growth curve with no obvious peaks or valleys.

Weanlinghorses are growing to their genetic potential when they are being fed a well-balanced diet in amounts to maintain slight cover, so ribs aren’t seen but are easily felt. For estimating weight, measure around the heart girth and the length from point of shoulder to point buttock. You can track growth over time by checking your horse’s body weight with a scale or measuring tape.

Plug these measurements into the body weight equation below to estimate your horse’s weight. Optimal growth Ideally, you should feed young horses to grow at a moderate, steady rate.

The National Resource Council (NRC) recommends rates of average daily gain for horses. Recommended average daily gain values for horses of different mature body weights range from 0.28 to 0.39 percent and 0.15 to 0.21 percent of the horse's body weight for weaklings and yearlings, respectively.

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Maximum growth Feeding a young horse for a maximum growth rate is undesirable because bone hardening lags greatly behind bone lengthening. Ideally, young horses should gain weight at a rate that their developing bones can easily support.

Growing bones don’t have the strength to support rapid weight gain from overfeeding, especially energy. Rapid weight gain can also make other skeletal anomalies worse.

In these cases the risk of developmental orthopedic disorders (DOD) and unsoundness increases. For example, switching an underfed, slow growing horse to a good diet that allows quick growth, increases the risk of DOD.

Always provide horses free access to fresh, clean water. Young, growing horses need a diet ratio of Ca to P between 1 and 1 and 3 to 1.

Maximizing forage intake will mimic natural feeding behavior and bring about gut health. Thus, don’t rely on pasture alone to provide your young horse with all the nutrients they need.

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Concentrates A horse’s ability to efficiently use forage develops over time. Only feed enough concentrates to achieve the desired growth rate and maintain a moderate body condition score.

Feed young horses to grow at a moderate and steady rate. Foals between the age of 3 and 9 months are at greatest risk for developmental orthopedic disorders.

Young, growing horses need a diet ratio of Ca to P between 1 and 1 and 3 to 1. Maximizing forage intake will mimic natural feeding behavior and bring about gut health.

Nutrition is important for growing horses between weaning and 2 years of age. During this time, bone formation and size greatly increase as well as muscle mass.

Thus, these horses need the proper amount and balance of energy and nutrients in their ration. We want to share some strategies and equine feeds that can help achieve healthy, sustainable growth while minimizing the risk of developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).

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If he is growing too quickly, putting on too much weight, or showing signs of DOD, you may need to consider weaning on the early side. On the other hand, if the foal has been ill or isn’t a good doer in these early months, you may want to have him continue to nurse.

No matter how old the foal will be when he’s weaned, it’s important he has already started eating pasture in addition to equine feed. We recommend an equine feed with a protein content between 14% and 16%, fed at a rate of 1 to 1.5 pounds a day for each month of age.

However, because these swings in condition can stress the young horse’s skeletal system, carefully monitoring his growth is essential. Also, it should provide key nutrients like lysine (an amino acid), calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin E.

Stamina is equally effective in maintaining gestating or lactating broodmares and providing required nutrients to growing young horses. • Edge 14 : Our reduced-starch equine feed is custom-crafted to support proper skeletal development, replacing cereal grains with super fibers and vegetable oil.

Like Edge 14, KG 14 replaces cereal grains with super fibers and vegetable oil and is fortified with Stamp 30. It’s highly palatable, contains 14% protein, includes beet pulp as a soluble fiber, soy oil to increase the fat level and overall calories and is fortified with Stamp 30 to ensure the weaning receives necessary micronutrients.

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• Super 16 : This extremely palatable equine feed helps support consistent growth and body condition. Most foals are weaned at about 4 to 6 months, just when their nutritional needs begin to outpace their mothers' milk supply.

Designed to provide all of a foal's nutritional needs at birth, a mare's milk yield naturally starts to decline after the first month or two. By the time the foal is 4 months old, he must supplement his nursing with other food sources, such as forage (hay and pasture) and grain.

Accustoming him to these nonmilk sources well before weaning time not only will help him maintain consistent growth throughout the transition, it will also help to avoid the “kid-in-the-candy-store” syndrome. But because the microorganism populations in newborns' hind guts need several months to develop fully, he will have trouble digesting this forage initially.

Turn him out on a productive pasture or entice him with good-quality, palatable hay (fresh and clean, early-cut). If you plan to feed your weaning grain, introduce him to it when he's about 1 or 2 months old, starting with just a handful at a time and increasing the amount incrementally.

One good way to introduce nursing foals to grain is with a creep feeder: a four-sided, single-railed enclosure built either in the corner of the fence line or standing alone in the center of the pasture (the latter is preferable for group feeding, as it allows escape on all four sides). This feeding method thus reduces the risks of digestive problems, such as colic and ulcers, brought on by large meals.

horse feeds super premium
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If you have only one foal, make the creep feeder sides about 8 feet long, set at your mare's chest height. He can eat out of her feeder?in which case, be sure the feed meets his nutritional needs, which are higher than the mare's in some respects.

Or mount a foal feeder, which has openings too narrow for an adult horse's muzzle to access, for him on the wall of her stall. A stand-alone creep feeder is better for larger groups of horses because it allows four sides for escape.

To encourage what nutritionists call “optimal growth,” you can provide up to 60 percent of a weanling's ration, based on weight, in the form of a concentrated feed designed specifically for growing horses. Encouraging even more rapid growth by feeding excessively large grain portions can contribute to long-term development problems, for example in the bones and joints, particularly in certain breeds, such as warm bloods and Quarter Horses.

The best proven method for supporting healthy musculoskeletal growth is to provide a properly balanced diet? Be careful not to confuse a potbellied foal (with a bloated belly and no layer of fat over the ribs) with an overweight foal; a potbelly may indicate a parasite overload and/or poor hay quality, especially when accompanied by a poor hair coat.

Weaklings turned out in groups rarely get too fat, even when fed free-choice forage and given adequate concentrate to support growth. Stalled youngsters, on the other hand, may overeat out of boredom and, without plenty of exercise, may become overly fat.

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Throughout that time, periodically reevaluate and adjust his diet to address his growing needs, as well as his exercise needs, until he reaches full maturity. Dr. Christine Kelly is an associate professor and equine extension specialist at Michigan State University.

Weaklings have a greater risk of developmental orthopedic diseases (DOD) if fed excessive energy. The weaning has the stress of being taken from its dam, mixing with a new group of young horses, and sorting out the social order, often at a time of year when weather conditions are adverse.

If the foal is doing too well (growing too rapidly, getting too fat) or has signs of DOD or conformation defects (e.g., getting erect in the pasterns), it may need to be weaned as early as three months so that nutrient intake can be carefully controlled. Similarly, foals that are failing to thrive as expected may either be weaned early to supply a more controlled diet to overcome deficits that might be due to poor milk production by the mare.

Conversely, a foal who has been ill and isn’t doing as well as desired may be left with the mare for a longer period of time. One factor that has a big influence on the growth of weaklings is familiarity with hard feed prior to weaning.

This will provide for supplemental caloric and nutrient intake as well as acclimate the foal to the ration it will consume as a weaning, reducing another potential source of stress at weaning time. The quality and quantity of pasture available will determine the amount of supplemental forage the weaning needs.

The weanling’s protein requirements can be met by a combination of young, green pasture and an appropriate grain mix. If pasture is scarce or dry, the weaklings will need supplementary high-quality Lucerne (alfalfa) or clover hay/chaff to provide higher levels of energy, protein, and calcium than grass hay or oaten chaff.

The advent of presale radiographs has focused attention on DOD and other bone problems in young horses. With the correct feed and appropriate intake there is no need for added supplements, which may in fact create nutritional imbalances.

Key nutrients such as amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin E should be provided by the hard feed. Weaklings that are too heavy or have early signs of DOD should not receive the traditional grain-based feed, but should have their amino acid and mineral needs supplied by a low-calorie balancer pellet as a supplement to forage.

Weaklings that are not destined for the sales or show ring can be fed more conservatively because they do not have to grow at a maximum rate or look their best at a young age. The amount of feed necessary to maintain a thrifty appearance will vary according to the needs of the individual weaning and the quality and quantity of the available forage.

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