Foaling services

The following provides an overview of how your mare and foal will be treated before, during and after foaling.

 

A mare can be considered to be due to foal anytime after 320 days from her service date, and on average will foal between 330-340 days from service.  Ideally, she should arrive at Piplyn four weeks prior to foaling; this will allow her to develop specific antibodies which she can then pass on to her foal.  She would receive a tetanus vaccination at this time to boost her tetanus antibodies. The antibodies are passed to the foal in the colostrum when the foal first nurses and provide passive protection to the foal until its own immune system begins to function. The normal time for a foal’s own immune system to start is at about 12 weeks of age. I also drench the mare at about three weeks prior to parturition and continue at three week intervals. This action is taken to ensure that the mare is free of parasites prior to foaling and also to eliminate one particular parasite that migrates to the colostrum just prior to birth. When the new foal is about three to five days of age it will ingest some of its mothers dung. It will do this in order to obtain some of the intestinal flora that it will need to digest grass.  Should the mare be carrying any parasites at this time, the foal will ingest them as well.  I want the mare to be absolutely clean before this occurs.

At Piplyn, your mare will be put in with other broodmares - giving her a chance to become socialized with the horses with which she will be paddocked during and after foaling. In the last trimester she will be given a hard feed - at this time mares should receive supplementary feeding with a feed that will provide all the minerals and trace elements required for the developing foal.

As she approaches the 320 day mark, she will be moved to the foaling paddock along with any other mares close to parturition. As she develops signs of imminent foaling (udder enlarging/wax on teats/discharge of milk) I will put a foaling alarm transmitter on her. This transmitter triggers an alarm in the house when the mare lies down. There are any number of theories regarding "signs" that a mare is about to foal, and behaviour she will or will not adopt - one being that she will not lie down during the last few days before she is due to foal - I have found that while this may be somewhat accurate, I still often dash out in the wee small hours to find the mare flat out and snoring!

Finally, all false alarms behind us - the moment arrives. All being well the birth is amazingly quick - with the foal lying on the ground, head poking out of the sack, still attached by umbilical cord to mum within minutes of the mare lying down. I want to be present at this time in case intervention is required for mis-presentation or other birthing problems.

Once out, I dry the foal and start the imprinting process. Imprinting is used to desensitise a foal to humans and handling through repetitious touching, stroking, bending of the limbs and introducing the concept of yielding to pressure. This leads to easier lessons later on in life.

Other post foaling activities include checking the mare to ensure she has not been torn and that within approx 8 hours of delivery the afterbirth has been completely expelled. For the foal other activities include disinfecting the umbilical chord once it has severed, checking that the meconium (the first 'manure') has been passed and waiting for the foal to suckle. This latter activity can be very time consuming (sometimes hours) while the foal learns to use all four legs, and develops its coordination and balance. The mare's first milk consists of colostrum which the foal needs to drink within its first few hours of life to obtain the antibodies that provide passive immunity to diseases. If the foal has trouble finding the milk bar, then I may need to milk the mare and feed this to the foal.

With the successful bonding of mare and foal and a clean bill of health for them both, the pair will then join the other mares and foals in the paddock set aside for them. Follow up observations of the mare and foal continue to ensure that there are no problems arising from retained membranes or the onset of joint deformities. Very soon thereafter regular programs of drenching and farrier care will commence.

I am also very excited to be part of Kentucky Equine Research Research’s “Gro-Trac” program on Australian foal development where the weight and height of foals is recorded at regular intervals and becomes part of a national database. As a spin-off, I monitor the progress of the foals and adapt management accordingly. I can also provide interested owners with a chart showing the progress of their foal compared to the average for that breed derived from information gathered around the world.

Growth chart for Velcro - thoroughbred colt by Lord of the manor out of Advantage Line.