Creep Feeding Foals

Newborn Foal, Ella takes in the world next to mom, Serena

When was the last time you picked a mare out for breeding based solely on the fact that she was a good milker? If you are like most horse owners, that thought probably didn’t even cross your mind when it came to mare selection. Most of us look at things like conformation, color, attitude and athletic ability as traits to breed for before we ever consider things like milk production.

The fact is that mares need to provide milk – and a lot of it – to feed and nourish the foal at their side. But even the best milking mare will start to decline in milk production a few months after the birth of her foal. By week 13-24 her milk production will shrink from 3% of her body weight to about 2%. This is a peak time for growth in the foal and nutrient needs are increasing just as the nutrition provded by mom is decreasing. A good way to address this issue and make sure that your foal gets all the nutrition that they require is to implement a creep feeding program. Creep feeding is simply a method of feeding foals so that they have access to feed that the mare doesn’t.

A simple creep feeder can be made of a small pen that allows the foal an entry that the mare can’t fit through. Height of the opening is a great way to keep mares out of the creep feeder. Keep your opening at least a couple of inches higher than the foal’s withers – this will be low enough to keep the mares out and still let the foals in. Remember, those foals are growing so you may have to periodically adjust the height of the entry. 

If you feed the foal in a stall alongside his dam, there are small feeders on the market that have evenly spaced bars in place over the opening that prevent the mare’s larger muzzle from reaching in to snack on the creep feed.

The ration you provide as your creep feed should be designed specifically for growing foals with the primary intention of providing balance in the diet.  It needs to have a few key features:

  • Good palatability to ensure intakes
  • High quality protein
  • Amino acids (particularly lysine) for sound growth
  • Balanced levels of vitamins and minerals – having too much, too little, or the wrong ratio of certain vitamins and minerals at this stage can be detrimental. Of particular importance is calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin E.  

Creep feed can be offered free choice; the foal will nibble at it throughout the day. To make sure that your foal is getting enough of the feed, place your feeder in a place that the mare frequents or spends a large part of her time.  Keep feed fresh and feeders clean so that the foals will be encouraged to eat.

By providing a creep feeding program for your foals you will be giving them the nutrition they require and helping them in their journey to becoming strong and sound adults.

6 Replies to “Creep Feeding Foals”

  1. Hi, I love your posts. I was wondering at what age should you stop creep feeding your horse? or does it just kind of turn into being regular feed for an adult horse? thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Katie – Great question! Foals can be transitioned to a regular feeding schedule with set feedings around weaning time. It’s a good idea to have them used to a regular feeding schedule before they wean, so that there is one less ‘stress factor’ to deal with during/after weaning. Hope that helps!
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

  2. Is the safe choice Mare and foal appropriate for both? also, I feed the mare this ration for how long? as long as she is nursing?

    1. Hello Paula, Thanks for the question! Yes, we suggest feeding the Mare & Foal feed from 1/2 way through pregnancy through the 3rd month of lactation. This is the critical period for nutrient needs for her to pass through to the foal. The foal can creep feed alongside the mare on the same product, and then stay on it until its 2nd birthday.
      Thanks~ Gina T.

  3. hi , i was wondering about the ideal requirements in creep feeding ? how much ca , p , protein and energy ?

    1. Hi, great question! This can vary slightly from feed to feed, but generally an appropriate feed will be 14-16% protein with controlled starch and sugar along with amino acid, mineral and vitamin fortification designed for young growing horses. Staying within those guidelines will allow you adequate nutrition for your foal or weanling. Make sure to check out this article as well, as it will provide some other great tips.

      Best of luck!

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