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Joanne

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When we first started breeding miniatures we were told by the breeders of that time to start weaning at 3.5 months and have them weaned by 4 months. While we at first started doing that it quickly seemed that this was just too early for them. Neither the dams nor the foals were ready.

In the last few years we seem to be getting later and later on weaning, especially those being shipped a long distance and certainly those going overseas which will have unusual stress on them. Also those born in late fall or early winter (it happens). We find that we just leave them together until the following spring rather than have them weaned during winter.

Could you please share when you wean and why you do it then? Does it depend on the particular foal or their dam?
 

Alex

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I wean, typically, 3-4 Months. It all depends on the foal and dam. If the dam is getting weighed down by the foal, and the foal is eating good, I'll wean him early. If the dam and foal are doing well, I'll leave them for more time together. Really, mine are weaned all before or around 4 months. JMO.

Alex
 

Magic

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Mine are generally weaned around 5 and 6 months of age. Most of my foals are born in March and April, and I don't wean them until after I get home from Nationals in mid-September, or a little later. They get Equine Junior feed by creep feeder for at least six weeks before weaning time, and they are all on pasture with their dams before weaning, then I pull the mares from the pasture so the foals are left in a familiar environment. I don't have much "weaning stress" from either foals or mares since the foals are so mature, and the foals do seem to do better when they have a little more age on them. It's just how I prefer to do it.
 

Miniv

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Joanne........I think you hit the nail on the head. It really DOES depend on the foal and the dam sometimes.

We use the 4 month break off as a basic rule of thumb, but if the foal and/or dam isn't ready we wait. Usually by 5 or 6 months it works. We also use the "buddy system" with weaning, so sometimes that means one of the foals is a little older.

If the foal has been sold, and isn't ready at 4 months, that's tough. The owner has to wait. Not stressing the horses (and possibly causing ulcers!) is more important than the new owner who wants their new baby ASAP.......Fortunately, our buyers have the foal's well being at heart too, so that hasn't been a problem.
 

Calekio

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We normally wean around 5-6 months, however watch all the mares and foals carefully from 3 months on. We have had to wean one off this year at 3 months as mum was so poor....

We have 2 others same age as him who will stay on dam's till they are older... although i think our black colt may have to be weaned at 4 month as mother is starting to dispise him.... have seem her several times kick him off her and today watched her reverse on him...... this is only her second foal and totally different to the last foal who we waited till she was 7 months old and still mare was very concern...

We also have a 3 week old baby here who will stay on mum till about march/april time (so 6-7months old) unless he starts pulling mum down too much during winter in which case we'll re-think (although already plan to feed her well from now till winter and she is looking great and set for winter)

I don't wean to make a sale.... if babies are sold owner have to wait for them.. and we always wean them give them a minimum of 4 weeks to settle so we can make sure all is going well... if i'm not happy though they won't leave till i am and buyer can lump it or leave it basically!
 

Carolyn R

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Joanne, I know you already know my feeling on this matter, but this just to put this out there for people that are new to the babies...

IMO, weaning too early, esp. when a foal is removed from the enviroment in which it was raised can be REALLY stressful on a foal. Caution needs to be used, stress is known to be one of the factors when dealing with ulcers. Ulcers in foals are a serious thing to deal with and can lead to more serious medical issues.

For all you newbies, Remeber, when people have a strong opinion about a matter on here, it is usually because they have had a good or bad experience when dealing with a specific matter.

My time frame is in the 5-6 month old range, and also using the buddy sytem, if you don't have another foal, use a yearling as a buddy (no yearling intact colts with weanling fillies !!!!!) Mares are ready, foals are ready, it's alot less stressful.

JMO

Carolyn
 

Reignmaker Miniatures

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I never wean before 4.5 months and prefer the 5-6 month mark. It does depend on the foal and the mare's health. If it seems no amount of food will keep the mare from getting too thin then I will wean a the 4.5 month mark. I often have only foals and since they have no age mates I will wean them by putting them (or their dam) in an adjoining pen that allows them to be close to mom but not nurse and I find that at first they cling to the fence and call each other but after a few days they know they are right there and don't seem to care anymore. Once they have both accepted the separation and are not worried when the other is out of sight I can move the foal to its new long term home (depending on whether its a colt or filly) and neither one is stressed unduly by it.
 

Genie

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We have always weaned at approximately 3 to 4 months, and only when there are buddies to be with.

So a foal may be over 4 months because it had to wait till there are a couple of other foals at 3 months so they can all be weaned together.

This year the oldest of three foals that were put to their weaning paddock, got a very bad tummy and acted colicky, sort of bloating up from her food and kicking at her tummy and rolling.

This didn't start till about 3 weeks into the weaning.

The younger two were fine but we had to put the older filly back with her Mum and she is now on ulcer meds.

I have one little one left to wean and he will likely be weaned with the little girl who is now back with Mum.

I haven't had problems in the 17 years we have had our minis but this time the problem was frightening and the vet told us she may have to be put to sleep as she was so bloaty and distended in such severe pain.

If the mare is doing okay then I think 4 months may be as early as I will wean in the future and if the mare is doing well and not being pulled down too much then possibly even longer.

It's not worth the worry of a sick baby just to try to get them weaned so early.
 

Connie P

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I used to wean between 3 and 4 months, but now I prefer to wait until 5 or 6 months. I just feel the foals and the dams do better when the foal is a bit older. I have removable walls in between stalls, so I can lower the wall and the foal can still nuzzle mama - just cannot nurse. When they are outside all horses can see each other in every pasture so it helps alot. Buddy system is great - when I only have one foal then I will probably use my little gal Whirlwind - she's a gem!
 
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Genie

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I really like Connie P's strategy in the weaning process.

All I have to do is to get my sweetheart to fix me a weaning stall, so they can "nuzzle"
 

HGFarm

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I usually wean about 4 1/2 to 5 months and no, I will not wean early for a sale either. I set my weaning dates and the buyer is well aware of that beforehand. I have not had any problems with people waiting for their foal. I like the buddy weaning system too. Mine worked out great this year because all three foals are only four days apart!! They are with their big sisters from last year and that seems to help too.

I like Magic's way of weaning as well. With our big horses, we used to take the mares out for grooming or a short ride bareback around the place- just 10 or 15 minutes. The foals got used to that fairly quickly so then we would up it to about a half hour- then to an hour. One day, we would take the mares out and they just never were put back in. The foals hardly seemed to notice and they had each other and could still see the Mom's next door. It worked pretty well.

I mentioned on another post that Minis are not goats, (which seem to do fairly well yanking them off the Mom's and being bottle fed a few weeks and then on their own....) they are horses, and need the nutrition and security of their Mom's and the herd. I dont think I would want to deal with the whole ulcer thing and I just dont think it is good for them nutritionally or socially to wean too early!!
 

Joanne

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Thank you all, that is very helpful.

Carolyn I am glad you shared your thoughts so others could learn.

We do what we call a "soft wean" here.

Basically we let the mom's out to roam around the property and graze, and keep all the foals in their paddock for part of the day. In 4 hours or so we let them back in with their foals unless there is an obvious problem beforehand. They can see each other through the fencing and often the mare will stay close to the fence and the foal will be just on the other side of the fence in the beginning.

Gradually we increase the hours until they are fully weaned and in the next pen. We start out during the day as it is less stressful than at night. We used to move them out of sight of each other, but found this was also way too stressful. They do much better in sight of each other.

Often times the last mare of the year may be the nanny to the older foals. This mare might not have a foal ready to be weaned yet and will still have her foal at her side. We find that these nanny mares really keep the foals calm. If the mare goes off to eat, the foals all follow her and do the same. If there is a foal born late in the year they just stay with their dam until the following year. Winter is no time to wean a foal here. Too stressful in the Pacific Northwest.
 

Michelle@wescofarms

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As foaling here falls between March - May, our weaning is at the earliest September, but depending on weather (I won't wean in the heat), mares condition, and how old the youngest foal is (very minimum is 4+ months but generally 5-7 months. I was 'taught' like you Joanne to wean early - the distress of the foals/dams - no thanks - and will not wean early unless it was life threatening or something serious that required it.

Now we wait until the foals are showing a certain independence - when they're hanging out with their buddies more than mom and eating with the rest more than glued to mom's side we know they're ready.

I keep a couple of the retired mares they know in with them through this (colts get a firm but gentle stallion once they're separated by sex), so they get manners on being a horse along with the comfort/security of an older horse.

I've also let them go and wean Jan/Feb (we have mild winters) - it is very situational here. Last year we had one colt, mom was pulled down by him, so he was weaned and left with his sire - they're still good buddies.

One year as an experiment I let the 'this is your last foal' mares determine when to wean (all fillies) - it really varied. From one that weaned her daughter in 7 months, one was close to 1 1/2 years and one - no lie - still will let her three year old daughter nurse! I don't think she has a bag let alone milk, but they're constant companions still and I just saw her trying to nurse off her mom this past week!!!
 

Ashley

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I typically do not wean before 3 months. I did wean one this year at 2.5 months as he was pulling down mom something very bad and I couldnt keep her in weight. He was eatting fine and had a buddy. Adjusted well and all screaming was done by the second day.

HOwever my other foal is still on mom and is almost 4.5 months old and I am fixing wean her soon.
 

cjmm10

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We wean at 3 1/2 months here.
We try to wean on the buddy system. We take the mares out of the herd & put them in a paddock next to the herd & foals. So Momma & baby can nuzzle through the pannel fence. For a few days the foals stay close to the paddock by Momma but after a few days they go off & graze with the other mares.

We stall our mares & foals at night so when a foal is 1 month old they start eating grain along side their moms. So by 3 1/2 months old they are eating very well. I've had a few foals that I had to wait till they were 4 months old to wean. It all depends on the mare & foal.

Thats the way we get along here. cjmm
 

rockin r

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I used to wean between 3 and 4 months, but now I prefer to wait until 5 or 6 months. I just feel the foals and the dams do better when the foal is a bit older. I have removable walls in between stalls, so I can lower the wall and the foal can still nuzzle mama - just cannot nurse. When they are outside all horses can see each other in every pasture so it helps alot. Buddy system is great - when I only have one foal then I will probably use my little gal Whirlwind - she's a gem!
I'm with Connie on this one...I have always weaned at 5-6 months. But, the foal(s) IMO MUST be eating their own feed and hay to get nourishmnet, not relying on their Dam for dinner. ALL my stalls have break away walls with the ability to lower the wall height. The foal is essentialy in the same stall he/she was foaled in, so no stress on moving them. Just separated from the dam (at first only at night for the first few nights). They are together in the pasture during the day. After a few days they will be separated completely if all goes well. Has always worked for me...Since we only had Ziggi this year, she will be put with her buddy Cricket to adjust to life without mom. Some foals are still not ready at 5-6 months. It is a judgement call for the owner. You know your horses better than anyone else, go with your gut and time will tell. As for Ziggi, she is VERY independent, has been since birth. Always venturing off on her own to explore. I beleive she will wean with no problems at all.
 

Margaret

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We have always had good sucess at weaning around 5 to 6 months old..

The foal shows alot more independance at this age, and the extra 2 months gives them a boost in nutrition.
 

Shortpig

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My foals weren't weaned before 5 to 6mos. I only one time had more than one foal so they stayed with mom. If it was a colt I pulled it from the Dam and thru it in with the sire. Of course when I sold the colt he threw a fit that he was being weaned from his sire at 18mos. Won't even go into how it affected the sire to lose his little baby. As for the Dam she just stayed with the group and all was well. Koda Bear was the same way except he is now 3 and still living with his sire has been since he was 5 1/2 mos old.

I believe that the calcium and nutrition the dam produces thru her milk is very important to the health and growth of the foal. This is natural calcium albeit we can buy food that contains the calcium but it isn't as natural and therefore not as easily absorbed into the foals bones and teeth.

Not to mention the lessons that my mares gave their foals as to how to mind and be well mannered. If it wasn't the dam teaching them it would also get a lesson from any other mares in the pasture with them.
 

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