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The foal’s first four months of age is a time of rapid growth and digestive changes, and a time when nutrition plays a critical role in growth and skeletal development. To achieve each foal’s genetic potential, we must provide feed in a form they can absorb and nutrients to meet their needs for growth and health, including proteins (amino acids), fats (fatty acids), calories, major and trace minerals, and vitamins.

A common management practice, in the past, has been to allow nursing foals to eat the grain mixtures with their dams. Unfortunately, all grain mixtures are formulated with minerals to complement forage, and foals under two months of age have very little ability to digest forage or the starches in cereal grains. This management practice is one of the reasons young foals develop diarrhea. During a foal’s first months of life, their digestive enzymes are more efficient at breaking down and absorbing milk (Fig. 1). As the foal ages, their digestive enzymes change. When the foal is between three to four months of age, the enzymes amylase, etc., will surpass lactase, allowing foals to begin digesting the nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) found in cereal grains and immature forages. Foals First® Starter and Creep contains a combination of milk-based ingredients with heat-processed, or cooked, protein grains and cereal grains to match their digestive system. This will result in optimum nutrient absorption, helping reduce the chance of digestive upset that can lead to loose stools, diarrhea, or Acid Gut Syndrome (AGS).

Digestive Enzyme Activity from Birth to Six Months of Age in Foals

As foals grow and develop, the first “visual” signs of Developmental Orthopedic Disease (DOD) are physitis (epiphysitis) and/or acquired contracted tendons. To determine the cause and ultimate solution to this problem, we must evaluate a foal’s 1) nutrition intake, 2) environmental conditions, and 3) genetics. To ensure nutrition is not the limiting factor, prompt attention must be given to every ingredient eaten and its nutrient content. If nutrition is determined to have played a role, immediate attention to their dietary needs and nutrient balance will speed recovery. Many times, the nutrient shortages are the result of a decline in mineral density in a mare’s milk. If this is the cause, the symptoms of DOD usually appear between two and four months of age. Foals First® Starter and Creep will help address these nutritional short comings by complementing the nutrients found in mares’ milk and supply their needs for amino acids as well as the major and trace minerals and vitamins, such as calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E, in an easily digested form.

Steps to Successful Management of the Nursing Foal
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