5 Tips for Feeding Weanlings
Young horses are considered weanlings from the time they're separated from their mothers until one year of age. This is a critical time in the young horse's life, and nutrition plays an important part. Here are five important points to consider when feeding a weanling:
1. Nutritional Needs: From the time foals are weaned to the time they turn 1, the young horse is considered to be on the highest nutritional plane of its life. Weanlings consume approximately 3% of their body weight in dry matter per day. Key components in the weanling's diet include:
2. Treat Each Horse Individually: Regardless of breed or sex, each weanling should be individually monitored and fed according to their needs. Feeding each young horse on an individual basis will not only allow you to keep your feeding costs as low as possible, but also create the best nutritional plan for each animal.
3. Stress and Decreased Feed Intake: Weaning is an extremely stressful time for young horses. This stress is usually accompanied by a decrease in daily intake of food and slowed growth. Therefore, it is ideal that a high-quality diet, both hay and grain, be provided after weaning. Creep feeding prior to weaning will also help the transition period so that growth and development is not detrimentally affected.
4. Exercise: Research has shown that weanlings benefit from free exercise or turn out. Scientists believe exercise helps to regulate bone and muscle growth, so allow young horses ample turnout opportunities.
5. Record Keeping: To reduce the risk of developmental orthopedic diseases due to rapid fluctuations in growth rate that commonly occur at weaning or during other times of stress, a variety of measurements can be taken from birth. Average daily gain, wither height, and hip height are common measures of growth rates in young horses. By monitoring these on a weekly basis, changes can be made in the diet accordingly to maintain a level plane of growth.
Take Home Message
Weaning is an important time in a young horse's life because of the increased needs for energy, protein, and minerals. Feed each weanling individually to monitor his or her proper growth and development during this critical time, and provide exercise or turnout daily to help regulate growth.
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.
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