Weaning Day: When Is the Best Time?By Dr. Clarissa Brown-Douglas · April 20, 2012
Most domestic foals are weaned between five and seven months of age. This is in stark contrast to foals in the wild that may not be weaned until the next foal is born.
Milk production will dictate the best time for weaning. A mare’s milk production will usually peak two months following birth and slowly decrease in the following months. The foal’s nutrient requirements increase over and above what the mare can provide at about 90 days of age, so at this age it is important to introduce a specially formulated foal feed and increase intake so that the foal is consuming 0.5kg (1 lb) per month of age.
Provided the foal is accustomed to eating supplementary feed, weaning as early as three or four months of age appears to have no negative effect on the foal. Early weaning can also offer some advantages including less feed required for the mare, and it may allow some mares to return to breeding sooner.
Sometimes mare owners don’t have a choice as to when to wean, such as when the mare is unable to produce enough milk, when the mare rejects the foal, or if the mare dies. Weaning as early as five days to two months of age will cause a decrease in growth rate, but this will usually return to normal within three to four weeks of weaning with no significant differences in size throughout the first year of life.
If you are faced with an orphan foal, It is worth considering a nurse mare to help with the rearing process.