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Miniature Ventures
Breeders of beautiful Miniature Horses with Action!
Quality Breeding  ~  Quality Transport

Larry, Maryann & Brianna Cerullo
5643 SW Minson Rd.
Powell Butte, OR 97753
Phone: 541-410-6222

E-mail: miniv@coinet.com


HAND/BOTTLE FEEDING the ORPHAN FOAL




 

Hand/Bottle Feeding the Orphan Foal

 

We have said this before and will say it again -- We are NOT veterinarians, and what we are sharing is from what we have experienced.
 

The title of this page is regarding the Orphan Foal, however, there are other situations where people could find themselves "bottle" feeding and there may be information here that is helpful for those circumstances.  These include:

 

  • The RH Factor Foal (see our page regarding that.).
  • The mare hasn't produced enough colostrum (hasn't bagged up) for her foal.
  • The mare is denying her newborn for whatever reason.

We have never had a mare deny her newborn.  However, if the mare is producing colostrum, it makes sense to try to milk the mare, if at all possible, instead of locating an outside source, and then hand feed.

When dealing with either an RH Factor Foal or the death of your precious mare at birth; the need to locate colostrum from an outside source is an emergency. Time is of the essence.  Knowing that you HAVE another source, even before the mare foals out, is very important.  One of those would most likely to check first would be your veterinarian.

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OUR Orphan Foal story began in April of 2005.

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Our beloved mare, Bridget, had a problem-free birth.  All was going well.  We had named her adorable chestnut colt, "Jeffrey's Pride", after our nephew.

Two weeks after "Jeffy" was born we lost Bridget to a twisted gut (colic) and we were faced with both feeding and consoling her son.  We were already grieving, so it was even more heartbreaking to deal with a tiny foal as he called for his missing mother. We poured love and attention on little Jeffy, going to him often when he was calling for his mother.  We cried with him for Bridget.  It wasn't long before he accepted us as his mother.

One thing we did NOT have to worry about was providing Jeffy with colostrum. Instead we armed ourselves with a bucket of Foal-Lac Powder and followed the mixing directions provided, using warm water.  It didn't take long for us to learn not to pre-mix too much in advance as it spoiled fairly quickly.

Initially, we fed him with the human baby rubber (bulbed) ear/nose syringe that we've always had success with when giving a brand new-newborn its very first taste of mother's milk.  However, he began arguing with us over it, probably because it was totally unlike his mother's nipple.

Fortunately our local ranch and farm supply store offered a variety of bottles for feeding different baby animals.  The one that Jeffy finally accepted without a fight was labeled for RACCOONS.  Looking at the nipple, it made sense, as it was actually very close to the size of a miniature mare's.

The other two important factors with feeding our little guy was -- How Often and How Much....

Initially, during the first month, we were feeding him every two hours.  Larry ended up being the primary feeder and Maryann filled in to give him breaks and sleep time.  What basically happened is our lives revolved around the care and feeding of our motherless colt.

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At the beginning, Jeffy was taking in approximately 2 ounces per feeding.  This gradually increased to 4 ounces over those first few weeks. We allowed HIM to dictate how much he wanted. The amount increased as he got older.

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I'd like to insert here some additional information that we have learned from other breeders with THEIR orphan foals.

One item that a person reported as helping them was attaching a small Igloo water container to the side of the foal's stall and placing a nipple (which the baby was used to) over the faucet attachment. The weanling discovered it could suck from it on demand.  However, we personally learned that the Foal Lac does spoil after about four to six hours after mixing it with water.

Other breeders have had good luck with introducing the liquid Foal Lac to their orphan foal in a feed dish or a bucket.  This also assists in freeing up the care taker's time.

It is up to the individual how much one-on-one time they can spend with a special case such as this.  Many people have Eight Hour Office Jobs, in addition to trying to run their farms, so these suggestions may be helpful.

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At approximately one month old, Jeffy was also being introduced to a dish of pelleted Foal Lac mixed with grain, plus a small pile of hay.  However, he was still being fed by hand every two hours or so.  By the time he was two months old, he was eating more on his own and we began spreading out the bottle feedings to every 4 hours and eventually every 6 hours.  Jeffy was the one who told us that he didn't need his bottle so often!

We continued with the bottle for him until he was four months old, but by that time he only wanted it twice a day......probably just for the sucking security.

During all of this time, we NEVER separated him from other horses. He spent his time with a small group that included other mares and their foals.  He even managed to sweet talk one of our mares into allowing him to "sneak" a nursing every now and then when her own foal was also suckling.  Even though Jeffy had bonded to us at some level, it was important that he also knew he was a horse.

Yes, we will admit......we did allow the little guy into the house, but only for short periods of time.  We still have a few unused "Depends" panties left over from his visits indoors. 

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