Weaning time can be stressful, but proper preparation of the foals and the mares for weaning can make the process much easier for everyone! Most foals are weaned at about 4-6 months of age, depending on the condition of the broodmares and the management plan of the owner.
There are a number of different ways to actually handle weaning, depending on how many foals you have and the physical layout of your facility. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
- There is probably less stress on the foal if it remains in the pen or paddock where it is accustomed to being instead of being moved to a new location. Move the mare, not the foal if possible.
- Misery loves company. If you have more than one foal, wean at least 2 at a time and keep them together. If you have only one foal, perhaps you have a nice old tolerant gelding who can be a babysitter? Mares also do better with company.
- Make certain the pen and paddock are safe with good fencing and no hazards.
- Out of sight (and hearing), out of mind. Mares and foals tend to quiet down faster if they cannot see and hear each other after weaning. There are some differences of opinion on this element of weaning management.
- A few days prior to weaning, reduce the grain intake on the mare to prepare her to dry up from milk production.
- Her udder is going to be somewhat swollen, so don’t plan on cinching her up right away for a trail ride.
- Her milk production started decreasing significantly at 2-3 months of lactation.
- Make certain that she can continue to get exercise to minimize swelling and discomfort post weaning.
Monitor the new weanlings fairly closely and adjust feed intake to maintain growth and body condition. Foals should be consuming about 1 pound of a suitable foal feed per month of age at the time they are weaned. (Ex: a 4 month old foal should be consuming 4 lbs of feed per day.) Some weanlings become a bit pot-bellied and look a little rough following weaning. This is frequently due to inadequate feed intake and too much forage.
Proper preparation can minimize the stress of weaning for foals and broodmares and make for a more pleasant experience for all!