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Foal Care Series

Following up on last month’s issue all about babies, we wanted to share some brief information on proper care for new foals. You've spent a lot of time and money preparing for your new arrival and whether that four legged, furry bundle of legs and joy has hit the ground or is soon to be running your pasture, it's important to think about foal care and health. It’s never too early or too late to put a plan in place.

Depending on your set up, you may not be around when your mare gives birth. I assure you; she doesn't mind. Most livestock prefer a quiet, isolated place to give birth and will often pick a location in the pasture they plan to use weeks prior to beginning labor. However, there are a lot of benefits to being on site during the birthing process other than the pure joy of watching a new life come into the world. If there are complications during delivery, being there and being prepared to act quickly could mean the life of your foal or mare.

Have a clean, safe, quiet place for delivery. Yes, a pasture is a perfectly acceptable and safe place for this to happen. Just verify that it’s free of anything that could be dangerous to momma or baby. If you have areas where you would rather not have a new foal, it would be wise to close those off. You can bet they are most likely the same secluded, quiet places momma may be planning on using as a delivery room.

Most mares deliver without any assistance or complications but if you are new to this, have your vet’s phone number prepared just in case you need it.

Pre-foaling timeline:

· 2 to 4 weeks prior - The mare's udder begins filling with milk.

· A few days prior - The muscles of the vulva and croup relax. The tailhead may become more prominent.

· 4 to 6 days prior - The teats become engorged.

· 1 to 4 days prior - "Waxing" of the teats occurs (a yellowish, honey-like secretion [colostrum]).

· Beginning labor - She is anxious and restless. She may appear to be colicky. She may kick at her belly, pace, lie down and get up, look, or bite at her flanks and sweat. She may frequently raise her tail and urinate.

Contractions can last a few hours, but once the “water breaks” or you begin to see the “sac”, things happen a little more quickly.

A few things to look for:

As delivery begins, watch for two front hooves facing down. If you see hooves pointing any other direction or any other body part coming first, call your vet before you get too far along.

A normal birth will take around 30 minutes and if you do not see considerable progress within 10 to 15 minutes after ‘water breaking”, call your vet.

Now just relax and stay calm, our emotions feed the animals and people around us. If you get overly anxious or nervous, you will make momma nervous. Like I mentioned, complications are rare and unless you see something that looks abnormal, let her body do what it was designed to do, and praise her for doing a great job when it's all done.

Next month, we will cover a little more information on post foaling care and join us in May when we talk weaning nutrition!

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