Best Grain For Weanlings

James Lee
• Thursday, 21 January, 2021
• 7 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.

Weaning horses 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. Tales of Old For many years in the past, we were told that weaklings didn't have a well-developed capacity to process plant materials like grass or hay.

In nature, a feral foal will nurse its dam for as long as 12 months, and sometimes longer if it's a filly. Depriving a 4- to 6-month-old foal of its dam's milk is taking away the most nutritious and highly digestible food source available.

Another explanation for the belief that young horses couldn't ferment hay or grass well was the way they were managed before weaning. Heavy grain creep feeding was the rule of the day in years past.

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This led to populations of organisms in a foal's bowel that were geared to breaking down and fermenting grain, not grasses. Grain lowers the pH of the large intestine (making it acidic), which is not a favorable environment for fermenting fiber.

Because the domesticated horse's diet can't come even close to duplicating the variety of different plants a wild horse consumes in the course of traveling 25+ miles a day, the likelihood of imbalances and deficiencies is extremely high. The forage portion of the diet should be analyzed to determine protein and mineral levels.

The next step is to add a protein and mineral supplement that complements the forage well and corrects the deficiencies and imbalances. Both rapidly growing babies and lactating mares usually do need a more concentrated source of calories than forage can provide to hold a good body condition.

Research clearly shows that overweight young horses are at higher risk for developmental bone and joint disease. You want good muscular development, not a thick layer of fat masquerading for muscle.

You can also feed-as needed-commercial concentrate mixes that are mineral supplemented and balanced to boost the calories coming from hay. Lower starch options are now available and rely more on easily fermented fiber sources such as beet pulp and soy hulls, which can provide calories equivalent to an equal amount of oats.

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Your veterinary nutrition professional also can help you find recipes for homemade alternatives to commercial grain mixes that are balanced in the major minerals calcium and phosphorus and won't upset your balanced forage base. • Saccharomyces Cartesian yeast or a probiotic containing the strain Propionibacterium will help protect the large bowel from acidity if there is any spillover of undigested grain.

• vitamin E, 2 IU (international units) per pound, is advisable for animals not on fresh, green pasture. It takes a little of work to get an appropriate, balanced nutrition program set up for your weaklings, but the benefits are tremendous.

The feeding plan developed for weaklings is also appropriate for pregnant and lactating mares, so you can rest assured you are meeting their high needs, as well. 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.

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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. If you have only one foal, make the creep feeder sides about 8 feet long, set at your mare's chest height.

If you don't use a creep feeder, offer your foal small meals when his dam is being fed. 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 weaning'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.

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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.

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.

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). 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.

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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. • Super 16 : This extremely palatable equine feed helps support consistent growth and body condition.

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.

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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 weaning’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.

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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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