Draft Horses Nourishing by a Foster Mare

Draft Horses Nourishing by a Foster Mare

Draft Horses Nourishing by a Foster Mare When, from death of the mare, or other causes, it is not practicable for the newly-born foal to take nourishment from the dam, a foster-mother must be obtained, or a process of artificial lactation provided. Some mares are averse to accept other than their own offspring, but if effectively managed most of them will adopt a strange progeny.

The orphan foal should not be presented to her, until each has need of the other; the young one, pressed by hunger, is ready to afford immediate relief to the mare, who responds by caresses, and thus the desired result is established.

The first introduction should be made in a darkened box, and must, of course, be affected under due surveillance, to prevent injury to the foal by the mare showing a repugnance to it. In the- absence of a foster-mare, there is little difficulty in persuading a foal to take milk artificially; a greater obstacle is the provision of a diet suited to its powers of digestion.

Artificial Lactation.

The milk of another mare, or of an ass, is, of course, the best; but such are not always obtainable; in default, cow’s milk, modified by the addition of water and some sugar, suffices tolerably well. When milk thus prepared does not agree with the foal, an excellent substitute for a portion of it can be obtained by boiling beans deprived of their husk for many hours, subsequently pressing the pulp and fluid through a hair sieve to the consistency of cream.

It is necessary to remember that a dose of castor oil is essential when the foal does not receive the colostrum from its dam; and throughout the whole period of artificial lactation the bowels will from time to time require correction by laxatives, or, when diarrhea is present, the exhibition of antacids will be indicated.

A bereaved foal in a few weeks will begin to take a small quantity of manger food, which should be very succulent and nutritious, and partly consist of scalded leguminous seeds.

Manger Food for Sucking Foal

As soon as the foal is capable of masticating corn it should be supplied with a small but progressively increased daily allowance. Crushed scalded oats and beans or peas, made into a mash with bran and linseed-cake water, constitute a most excellent diet. A half-pint of beans to be gradually augmented to a quart per day, supplied before weaning, will be of greater benefit than triple the quantity allowed at two or three years old.

Some persons will no doubt object to beans or peas being used as articles of diet for the rearing of young horses; but as I entertain a very strong opinion that those seeds are better suited than any other grain to the requirements of animals during rapid growth, the reasons why I advocate their use must be submitted.

Without entering scientific detail, it may be accepted that the chemical composition of leguminous seeds differs from that of cereals in much the same manner as milk differs from flesh. A consideration of this fact first induced me to recommend the use of peas and beans for lamb-rearing. The recommendation has been extensively adopted in some of the midland counties for hogget’s and, in a less degree, for foals; and in no instance has the practice failed to substantiate the correctness of the theory: none but good, not to say the best possible, results have been obtained.

At all periods of life salt is an essential constituent of food; between the age of eight weeks and three and a half years, there is a maximum demand for this and other mineral substances to build up the bony frame. Pastures and forages grown with bone manures may be expected to yield in this respect most satisfactory results.


Exercise is as essential for the well-being of a foal as it is for the more mature animal but should never be carried to an extent sufficient to produce fatigue or promote perspiration.


It has been previously observed that the process of weaning should, as a rule, be accomplished gradually, a practice equally beneficial for the foal and the mare.

In districts where the breeding of draught horses’ forms one of the agricultural industries, there is frequently an absence of the necessary accommodation for keeping foals after weaning age, and owners consequently dispose of them to grazers of other localities, who have the convenience for economically rearing them to further maturity. Foals possessing good frames, well-formed feet and limbs, find ready purchasers at the autumnal ‘foal fairs.’

The farmer who elects to retain all, or some of his weaners, and the grazer who buys such animals, generally keeps them until they are upwards of two years old. The foals are pastured during the spring and summer, and for the first winter, at least, they ought to be fed in straw yards.

Every experienced man will corroborate the force of Captain Heaton’s very graphic expression in relation to rearing, that ‘ the colt should not be allowed to lose his foal’s flesh.’

No argument can be advanced in favor of the economy of food privation to foals during their first winter; by starvation, their muscles shrink, their bellies become pendulous, their constitutions weakened, and they are prone to contract organic diseases, and to be infested with destructive parasites.

Although I persistently urge the necessity for the exhibition of decent food to foals and young horses, the remarks previously made upon the evils of forced feeding and the promotion of early maturity are in no way qualified thereby. I strongly desire that the difference between the two conditions should be thoroughly understood and appreciated.

By a sufficient, but not super abundant, supply of suitable nutritious food, a regular development of the young animal is to be achieved. This I understand to be natural growth; on the other hand, early maturity, or the premature arrival at the period when an animal acquires a natural tendency to accumulate fat, is brought about by excessive feeding upon diet adapted more for the production of fluids and adipose tissue, than to normal growth of bony and muscular structures.

The Breeding and Management of Draft Horses

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