Foals are born with little or no anti-bodies to fight off infection. A foal receives these anti-bodies through colostrum, the thick yellowish milk produced by the mare in the first 24 hours after birth.
The foal’s intestines have a limited amount of time to absorb the anti-bodies within the first 12-24 hours of life. The peak absorption hours are the first 8 after foaling. After the eighth hour, the intestines’ ability to absorb the immunoglobulins in the milk begins to decline rapidly and falls to zero at 24 hours.
Your foal may not receive enough colostrum to boost its immune system for the following reasons:
- The foal is too weak to stand and nurse. This should happen by the second hour.
- The mare may have leaked much of the colostrum prior to foaling. Mares will drip the heavy sticky colostrum, known as “waxing”, but there should not be a steady stream or heavy dripping.
- The mare produces a low quantity or quality of colostrum.
The doctors at Mid-Rivers recommend having a neonatal checkup of your new foal to discover any possible health issues early. If the birth is completed with the 1-2-3 Rule of Foaling, then the baby can be checked between 12-24 hours after delivery. If the foaling falls outside of the 1-2-3- Rule, then contact your veterinarian immediately.
During the exam, your veterinarian will do a complete neonatal exam. They will examine the eyes, palate, bite, heart, lungs, umbilical cord, and check for hernias. They will also check to make sure the baby is urinating and has passed meconium. Additionally they will check to ensure the mother is producing adequate milk.