Foal Sales Preparation
Preparing foals for the November and December foal sales can be a daunting and difficult task. Presenting your foal for sale at public auction requires thorough monitoring of the foal’s physique and soundness right throughout the sales preparation. Making the necessary changes to the diet and exercise regime as you progress through the preparation as they grow and develop. Some will experience growth-related challenges others will be more straightforward and have a seamless transition from nursing foal to weanling to sales preparation. Early foals have a distinct physical advantage in that they are naturally at a later developmental stage than their younger counterparts are. Foals born later such as those born in May and June are still very young and are dependent on their mother’s milk to supply them with the best form of nutrition at this early stage of life.
We have recently covered the weaning process in an earlier article. In summary, the digestive tract is quite immature and hence owners must exercise caution when attempting to supplement the diet with concentrate feed. The mare’s milk production will start to diminish after about 3 months of lactation so this is a suitable time to introduce a small amount of creep feed for these foals. In order to control intake foals should be fed separately from their dams and in the case of later-born foals they may need to be further separated from older foals within their group to ensure they do not receive an inappropriate amount of feed until such time as their digestive system has developed to consume it. There are a number of products specifically designed and formulated with the younger foal in mind, these products are highly concentrated in protein, minerals, and vitamins and hence low feeding rates are required.
Specific foal feeds can contain milk based proteins making them easy for the younger foal to digest. For foals that have a normal growth curve, it is ideal to leave them with their mother until they are approximately 5 months of age providing you have sufficient lead-in time to the sales. Gradual introduction of concentrate feed will help to reduce the stress of weaning at any age; once a foal is weaned it is important that it has a quality source of lysine and threonine in their diet. While these nutrients are limiting for proper growth they are not the only nutritional need of the foal. Sufficient quantities of minerals and vitamins are essential for proper development and health. These also need to be in balance with one another. Commercial feedstuffs are designed with these critical balances in mind.
A preparation programme of 6 weeks is widely recommended. Foals that are eating well and are sound of limb will prepare well on a Stud or Young Stock Feed, providing it has an appropriate mineral and vitamin content. If your foal requires a considerable amount of finishing you may have to seek out a higher calorie option from your feed supplier. However, if your foal is showing any signs of developmental skeletal problems or an abnormal growth curve a controlled plane of nutrition will be required and these foals will require a concentrated low-calorie balancer in conjunction with a suitable forage.
The autumn is the time of year where grass growth starts to decline and grass quality can vary, while it is ideal to have foals in their natural and healthy environment getting exercise from their daily movements and grazing it will be necessary to bring foals in overnight when preparing them for the last month/6 weeks with extensive turnout during the daylight hours. When stabled consider the quality of the forage being offered to the foal; excellent quality leafy forage will ensure the foal doesn’t develop a ‘pot belly’ it is also a good idea to include some high-quality alfalfa or Lucerne in the diet as this is both rich in protein, and bioavailable calcium but is also highly digestible.
As the deadline for the sales approaches try not to panic and ‘push’ your foal too quickly as this can result in the undesirable outcome of developmental orthopedic disease. Potential buyers do not expect a May or June foal to have the same physical appearance as an early foal so getting them to the sales sound and looking well has to take priority over a robust, mature physique. Working with your vet and farrier will help to achieve this result, consulting a nutritionist will also help to refine your feeding program remembering to stick to feeding guidelines is imperative when feeding the younger foal.
When you reach the sales do not make any sudden or drastic changes to the diet; try to keep the transition from the home environment to the sales as seamless as possible. Considerable time spent traveling can present some challenges for the foal, allow adequate time to rest and recover following the trip before you commence showing for prospective buyers. Ensure the foal stays hydrated and has ad lib access to good quality forage for the duration of the sales. Avoid any changes to your concentrate diet bringing your own supplies from home or liaising with your feed supplier to arrange delivery of the same direct to the sales complex.
If you have any queries regarding feeding, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the GAIN Equine Nutrition team.
Lo Call: 0818 321 321
Int: 00353 56 88 3660