Care & feeding of weanlings

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targetsmom

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I have been writing up information for our 4-H Club on the Care & Feeding of Weanlings and am posting it here for 2 reasons:

1. I would appreciate comments on anything that should be added or corrected

2. I think the information could be helpful for LB members (final version of this will be posted on our website - link below).

Care & Feeding of Weanling Minis




Little Hooves 4-H Club




Foals are usually weaned and separated from their mothers at 4-6 months of age. Some people like to wean gradually while others do it "cold turkey" but either way will be stressful. At On Target Miniatures, we do it "cold turkey", removing the foals from the mothers and separating them as far away as possible for at least a few weeks. Typical reactions are screaming, running the fence line, and trying to jump anything in the way, such as fences or stall doors. We watch both mares and foals very closely for the first few hours or until they calm down a bit. To help prevent ulcers (common at times of stress) we gave each foal a dose of Gastrogard for the first few days.

The mares grain is stopped at weaning to help their udders dry up. In place of grain, the mares are fed soaked alfalfa cubes (easy on the stomach) with some beet pulp and U-Guard (a powdered ulcer preventive high in calcium). They are not fooled, but eat it! Udders are monitored closely, by sight only, and by the second day may seem about to explode, but should decrease rapidly over the next several days. If an udder does not decrease greatly in size the first week, it could be a sign of mastitis and may require treatment.

Care and Feeding weanlings:

All the foals at On Target Miniatures are handled from birth, haltered, and led, clipped, hooves trimmed, etc. before weaning. "Training" of weanlings should be limited in time and nothing should be done that will stress their developing legs or their minds. Short walks, leading over obstacles such as tarps or poles, backing, and getting used to strange things such as umbrellas, should be about the extent of their training at this time. No longing (or any work in tight circles) or jumping should be done until they are much older or it could cause lasting damage to their legs.

Up until this point the foals had been getting a lot of nourishment from the mare's milk, which they no longer have access to. Weanlings are growing rapidly and need lots of protein in their diets in order to grow properly. Equine nutritionists recommend that 14-16% of the TOTAL diet for weanlings should be protein. Pot bellies on youngsters are often a sign of too little protein. The first step in creating a diet is to determine the weight of your mini, usually with a tape measure and chart, unless you have a scale. Measure the mini around the girth, just behind the elbow and withers, and also the length from point of shoulder to point of buttock in a straight line. Charts at this link will show you how to estimate the weight from these measures: http://www.lilbeginnings.com/info/misc/. Most grain bags have ranges of grain amounts per hundred pounds of body weight (or similar) based on nutritional needs. You will probably notice that the amount for weanlings is the highest of any category, often 1.5 - 2 pounds of grain per 100 pounds of body weight. A just-weaned mini might weigh 100-150 pounds so this means 1.5 -3 pounds of grain a day. But that still might not be enough to make the total diet 14-16% protein, when grass hay is about 10% protein and alfalfa hay can vary from 12-25% protein. The recommended amount of hay in the diet is usually 1-2% of body weight, and yes this does require math to figure out the amounts to feed. Hay - especially alfalfa or mixed grass and alfalfa - should be tested to determine the percentage of protein.

Example for actual 2012 weanling at On Target Miniatures (OTM)

Snappy is tiny, only 25.5" tall, her girth =33" and length=28"

Using the table, 33" girth = 109 lb

Using formula of girth X girth X length /300= wt in pounds (#): 33 X 33 X 28/300=101.6 #

These estimates are fairly close, which is good, so a weight of 100 pounds was used for calculations.

Starting with 1# hay (1% of her body weight) at 10% protein, and with 2# (from feed bag suggestion for 100 pound horse) of 14% grain:

1# X 0.1 + 2# X 0.14 /3# (total weight) = 0.38/3 or 12.7% protein.

This is below the recommended 14-16%, so needs more protein. One way to do this is to add Calf Manna to the diet (yes, it isn't just for calves but fine for foals!) which is 25% protein.

Adding 0.25 # of Calf Manna per day:

0.38 + 0.0625 (0.25# X0.25)= 0.4425 divided by new total weight of 3.25 #= 13.6% protein.

This is still not quite enough, so add 0.5 # Calf Manna and reduce 14% grain to 1.5#:

1# X 0.1 + 1.5# X 0.14 + 0.5# X 0.25 = 0.1 + 0.21+ 0.125=.435/3=14.5% protein!!!

So 1 # hay, 1.5# of 14% protein grain and 0.5 # Calf Manna looks like a good daily ration for Snappy, which is split into several feedings. Always make feed changes gradually, so work up to these amounts over a week or more. Hay and grain should be weighed, at least to determine how much a unit measure of the grain or hay weighs, in order to assure that feed amounts are accurate. At OTM a 10 # white Strongid container is used to measure hay, as it will hold 1 # of our grass hay when tightly packed. A one cup household dry measuring cup is used for grain, and holds different weights, depending on the grain.

These same weights of hay, 14% grain and 25% Calf Manna can be adjusted up or down for other body weights. For example, a 150# weanling would get 1.5# hay, 2.25# of the 14% grain and 0.75# Calf Manna for 1.5# of hay total and 3# of grain. And of course these amounts need to be increased as the foal gains weight. Condition should also be monitored and amounts adjusted as needed. This is especially critical that first winter, when you must feel through the heavy coat along the back, hips and ribs to determine condition. These weights of hay and grain also work out to be close to the suggested ratio of grain to hay for weanlings of 70:30. Note that recommended grain to hay ratios, feed amounts, and percentage of total protein in the diet all change as the foal ages, so diets for yearlings and older minis will be different.

There are plenty of other ways to get to this end result of 14-16% total protein in the weanling diet and a 70:30 ratio of grain to hay, but this is just one example. The condition of the animal is the final determinant of what and how much to feed. Some will be "easy keepers" and gain weight on a diet that will not be adequate for a "hard keeper" of the same weight.

© 2012 Mary Adams, On Target Miniatures
 

targetsmom

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Yesterday was the 4-H meeting where we covered this material and discovered that 2 of the weanlings (the 2 biggest) had already gained weight since weaning the week of August 26!! Length is the same on all 3, but heart girth increased as much as 2 inches on our largest weanling (Clyde).

We also had a simple trail course set up and members could pick which mini to take through it. The weanlings were popular and each got to go through it twice (with a break in between) by different members. All walked through the wading pool with water in it, over the poles, through the waterfall obstacle, and stood to have the hula hoop moved over their bodies.
 

jandjmc

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Hi Targetsmom;

Loved the info and soooo great for your weanlings to be out and about! A question about the "cold turkey" approach.. have you compared "cold turkey" and gradual weaning?
 

targetsmom

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I have not had enough foals to do much comparison so have only done "cold turkey" myself. We had actually planned to do it more gradually this year but then read somewhere (on this forum I am sure!) that all you do when you do it gradually is spread out the stress, not reduce the total amount. Once things settled down a bit after 3 hours, I really didn't want to have to go through this all over gain the next day, to be honest. Plus I stopped the mare's grain and am not sure how well you can dry up the mares if you wean gradually. The screaming went on for several days but the frantic fence running, trying to jump over fences, etc. had stopped within a few hours. I am sure a lot depends on how many you wean, how much they have been handled and a host of other factors, but I am glad we did it cold turkey.

Just for that I am going to add a couple of pics of the happy weanlings going through the trail pattern yesterday.

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AnnaC

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Love those pictures!! What good little chips - they are a testement to your care and handling methods Mary.
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We dont wean until babies are 6 months and have always done it 'cold turkey', even when we have only had two to wean. In 20 years of breeding minis we have only had one mare (first foaler that year) run the fence for half a day, and one foal do the same for a few hours. We find the babies are too busy playing together and the mares are breathing sighs of relief at getting rid of them! LOL!!
 

MrsCaptain

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This is so very helpful, I just purchased a 4 month old weanling and a 6 month old weanling where the breeders thought was they needed only a half a handful of grain. Well I've owed full sized horses before so I at least knew I needed to give them more than that. They have pot bellies for sure which my first thought was hay bellies since I've never had experience with foals before. I am calling the vet to give them a check up but since they are minis I wanted to get the advice of you all here since I have no idea what experience the vet coming has with minis. This is what my plan is let me know if I should do something different.

I am keeping them off the lush grass and in their stall together only hand grazing them for now until they settle into their new home.

Since they have not been fed grain (probably at all) I wasn't sure if I should start feeding them 3lbs a day or not..I need to check the feed bag this morning to see the recommendations. I am going to be feeding Omolene 200 because in my experience with it before its GREAT for making good strong feet and beautiful coats. I figure if it does that its got to be good for the insides too..
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I gave them each a cup of it last night before bed. And I would say a lb of hay..( small leaf)

Free choice water and mineral salt block.

Any further tips for me and advice would be wonderful!
 
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Charlotte

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Targetsmom, this is wonderful what you are doing with your 4-H group.

Our weaning plan may be a little different or at least I don't see it mentioned so I'll tell a bit about it.

we like to wean at somewhere between 4 and 6 months depending on circumstances and the horse. The foals are left where they have always been when they were with their moms. In our case that is in their stall at night and out in the pasture during the day with all the horses they are used to...except their mom. Most of the new weanlings hardly seem to notice mom is missing. they just continue on as usual. Since they have been eating with their dams since they were a few days old they continue on that same feeding program (for the month before weaning I make sure to add a bit of any new feed product to mom's feed so baby will be used to the smell and taste)

The dams are put in a dry lot on the other side of the barn where the weanlings in pasture can't see them. Some mares do some fence pacing and calling but that stops quickly as soon as the udder begins to go down (usually on the 3rd day).

Since a horse may be 2 years old before the digestive system is very efficient at processing high fiber feeds like hay and since babies are so prone to ulcers we make sure to feed a product designed specifically for young growing horses. So our foals get all the green grass (assuming we aren't in a terrible drought) they want to eat in the day time, their junior feed twice daily (fed as per the instructions on the product) and some kind of hay in their stall at night....usually alfalfa which is high in protein, calcium and low in nondigestible fiber.

But bottom line for us is to not change anything for the youngsters and they stress much less than if they are suddenly put in a new enviornment.

Mrs Captain, I would suggest a junior feed for your weanlings. also keep in mind that grain products and sweet feeds are more likely to encourage ulcers....one of the reasons alfalfa products work so well for weanlings.
 
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Carolyn R

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Wonderful info! Calf manna is wonderful stuff for weanlings and young horses that are lacking that extra something.

Will you be doing a intro to horse health with them? Covering basics like how to take a horse's temp, how to clean and treat mild abrasions, the importance of worming, check ups, and dental floats. You are doing a great job, covering info that even adult horse owners are sometimes clueless about.
 

targetsmom

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Thanks for the comments Charlotte! I think this just reinforces that there are lots of ways to wean and feed horse, and sometimes you have to adjust for your own situation. Charlotte makes some EXCELLENT points that just didn't work so well in our situation.

Ideally, we would have left the foals where they were and moved the mares, but the foals had been getting through the fence in the pasture, so to be safe, we left the mares there. The foals were in part of the pasture they were used to (the part with the better fencing!) and had two fence lines separating mares & foals but they could still see each other, hence the screaming. The foals were put in with buddies from the rest of there herd, which did help take their mind off missing their moms.

The foals had been eating grain since about 2 weeks of age, so of course were started on that feed, which is Nutrena Safe Choice,a 14% protein feed for all ages. Mares and babies were also getting Calf Manna - well, the mares liked it so much they were helping themselves! Instead of a Junior feed, we feed a Senior feed which the Nutrena nutritionist told me was fine for junior horses. If you check, the junior and senior feeds are often very similar, and this one is also 14% protein and a complete feed, which I like. It contains alfalfa to make it complete, plus we also give some soaked alfalfa cubes with their grain. So the foals are now getting a mixture of the 2 14% feeds, plus the Calf Manna, but certainly one Junior feed would be even better, as long as the protein is high enough. I would stay away from sweet feeds and have some alfalfa in the diet somewhere. We find the alfalfa cubes to be convenient and they soak pretty quickly if you help break them up.

Our grass hay is second cutting and very fine.

ETA: Yes we will be doing a session (or 2) on horse health, taking vital signs, colic and ulcers, vaccinations, etc... Glad you mentioned dental, but one of the members was here when Carl Mitz was here this summer, so she got quite an education in horse dentistry! We have already had the kids help worm the horses.
 
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chandab

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Since they have not been fed grain (probably at all) I wasn't sure if I should start feeding them 3lbs a day or not..I need to check the feed bag this morning to see the recommendations. I am going to be feeding Omolene 200 because in my experience with it before its GREAT for making good strong feet and beautiful coats. I figure if it does that its got to be good for the insides too..
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Any further tips for me and advice would be wonderful!
Just remember to move them onto the feed slowly, as they have not had much grain before (like over the course of at least a week to move them up to full amounts). And, most feed tags list feed amounts for full-size horses (or full-size foals), so if the direction don't give an amount per 100#, then likely its a total daily amount recommended for a full-size horse and only 1/4-1/3 that amount should be fed to minis (foals or adults, depending on the product).
 

MrsCaptain

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For sure will be introducing feed slowly..
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Vet comes on Monday and we'll go over what he feels they need then, I will continue slowly until his check of their health.

Very excited to be apart of this mini world! I again am so thankful for this great Original post, helps me a lot!

Still working on the names for these cuties they are out of Crystal Ridge Carousels Native Son - who is out of FWF Blues Carousel

The jr feed is a great idea - will see what the vet suggests now on Monday.
 

targetsmom

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The version of this that will be posted on our website will be revised based on the excellent comments made here. Thank you!
 

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