What Is the Effect of Early Weaning on Young Horse Development?

The purpose of this study was to compare the growth and development of Thoroughbred foals raised under four different management systems.

Forty foals were placed in four treatment groups. Foals in group 1 were weaned at 5 days of age and fed a commercial milk replacer, then a milk transition formula pellet, and then a mixture of sweet feed and foal pellets. Foals in group 2 were weaned at 5 months, receiving creep feed shortly before weaning. Foals in group 3 were weaned at 5 months but received creep feed from 3 months of age. Foals in group 4 were raised on nurse mares, mostly draft and draft-cross types.

Foals were weighed and measured every two weeks. Nurse mare foals were heaviest and had the largest heart girths, while milk replacer foals were lightest and had the smallest heart girths at several stages of the study. However, by 168 days the milk replacer foals were as tall as conventionally raised foals and only slightly lighter.

This report of KER’s 1993 research was published in Proceedings of the 13th Equine Nutrition and Physiology Society Symposium.

Read the entire research paper, titled The Effect of Early Weaning on Growth and Development in Thoroughbred Foals.