A complicated foaling left the newborn orphaned, but with medicines and good husbandry we found a foster mare, says Lucy Procter.
January is a significant month in stud life – with the turn of the year all the horses get a year older, the previous year’s foals head off to the sales and we eagerly prepare for the early foals.
Tuesday 25th January was D-Day for our 2021 foals. We took 10 foals and an in-foal broodmare to the GoffsUK January sale in Doncaster. The process started on the Saturday, when Doug and I each drove a lorry load to the sales ground and we repeated the trip with a second load on Sunday. Doug then stayed on to run our draft at the sales and I came home to watch expectant mares.
On the Tuesday, we sold seven of the ten foals and the broodmare, but overall it was a disappointing sale with prices down on previous years and an overall clearance rate of 64% – at least we beat that – so we wish the new owners the best of luck with their purchases and move on to the arrival of this year’s foals.
In anticipation of sitting up watching the stable cameras overnight, it was straight to bed once home on Sunday afternoon, only to be woken up at 10pm by one of our sons who had been watching the cameras, to say that one of the mares had started to foal. Unfortunately, the foaling was not straightforward and, although we got the foal out alive and well, an internal rupture during foaling meant that sadly the mare didn’t make it.
We were able to take a quantity of the mare’s first milk, called colostrum, to feed to the foal, and supplemented this from our store of frozen colostrum collected last year.
It is very important to get 2-4 litres of good quality colostrum into a foal in the first few hours after birth. The colostrum contains important immunoglobulin proteins from the mare which help provide the foal with maternal immunity during the first 6-12 weeks, until the foal’s own immune system is functioning.
An orphan foal
We made up powdered foal milk to feed the foal every hour using a lamb bottle, and started the hunt for a foster mare. Eventually we were offered a mare that was due to be weaned from her own foal, so was still producing milk, and the owners were confident that the mare was a good mother.
Once the mare had settled in a large stable at the stud, our vet attended and injected the mare with Prostaglandin (PG), commonly used in foal fostering to help induce maternal behaviour and increase the chance of the mare accepting the foal. A side effect of PG is to induce sweating and we wiped the mare’s sweat over the foal to help the foal smell like the dam and improve the chance of her accepting the foal. The vet also gave her Oxytocin to let her milk down.
We then brought the foal into the stable and into a feeding position alongside the mare, encouraging the foal to find the mare’s teats. The mare quickly accepted the foal suckling and gradually we moved away and within 11⁄2 hrs of starting the process, we had left the mare alone with the foal, just keeping watch on the cameras. As the mare wasn’t producing quite enough milk, we started her on Domperidone – a drug that helps build up milk production – and we increased the quality and quantity of her feed.
While her milk increases, we are still supplementing the foal with a few bottle feeds, but the foal much prefers drinking from mum and her bottle feeds are reducing.
A week later and the mare and foal are happy together. If the foal wanders too far away, there is a low whickering from the mare and the foal quickly responds and moves back to her new mum. It is a pleasure to watch them together and marvel at the natural maternal instinct.
by Lucy Procter – Glanvilles Stud