Your nursing foal's nutritional needs will be met in the first two to three months, provided your mare is milking properly. If your mare is a poor milker, or has impaired milk production due to disease or other factors, she may not produce adequate nutrients for her foal during early lactation. Even if all goes well, in the third month of lactation, your mare's milk production will drop, while her foal's nutritional needs will increase. Feeding your foal a well balanced creep feed will make up the difference. Besides supplementing the dam's milk, creep feeding will also challenge your foal's digestive system to create the enzymes necessary for breaking down the more complex nutrients contained the various grains. This enzyme production takes about 3 weeks, and by starting your foal on grain well prior to 3 months of age, you can prevent a growth slump.
One of the best practices to ensure adequate nutrient intake for suckling foals is the use of a creep feeder. The creep feeder should be strategically located near the spots your mare frequents, such as her watering or feeding area, and should be designed to allow her foal safe access to the feed without danger of incurring injury.
Supplemental feed should be provided at least once daily; more often if weather and other conditions indicate. Provide liberal quantities so that your foal will have free-choice access to feed any time he wants to eat. Pelleted creep feeds may be preferable to textured feeds because this prevents the sorting of ingredients. One of the most important advantages of creep feeding is to accustom your foal to eating concentrates before he is weaned. It has been found that foals who have been provided with creep feed for a period of several weeks prior to weaning, generally eat better after weaning, and may be less susceptible to the stresses of weaning experienced by foals who have not been similarly fed.
You might try feeding your foal at the same time that you feed your lactating mare. Providing supplemental feed in a creep feeder for your foal is preferable to having him eat the dam's concentrate; because your foal's nutrient requirements, relative to its energy needs, are higher than those of your mare.
You can purchase a commercial feed designed to be fed to young foals, or you can make your own. The nutrient concentrations needed in a creep feed are shown below:
Protein - 14 to 16%
Calcium - 0.8 to 1.0%
Phosphorus - 0.6 to 0.8%
Lysine - 0.7 to 0.9%
Methionine - 0.5 to 0.75%
It is best to use the higher levels of protein and calcium with grass forage. Use the lower levels of protein and calcium with alfalfa forage. Alfalfa is not recommended for very young horse because it naturally contains a high level of calcium which young horses can not tolerate.
Fresh creep feed should be provided every day. Feed at a rrate of 0.5 to 1.0% of the foal's body weight per day (1 lb.per 100 lbs. of body weight or 1 kg / 100 kg body weight) up to a maximum of 4 to 5 lbs. (1.8 to 2.2 kg) of feed per each month of age.
The following formula is listed below for those of you who wish to make your own creep or grower feed:
Cracked Corn - 50 lbs.
Oats - 50 lbs.
48% Soybean meal - 20 lbs.
Molasses - 16 lbs.
Fat or Oil - 5 lbs.
Di-Cal Phos. 18.5% phos - 2 lbs.
Feed Grade Limestone - 1.8 lbs.
Vitamin Trace Mix - 1.3 lbs. (use recommended levels of your mix)
White Salt - .8 lbs.
L-Lysine - .4 lbs
Dl-Methionine - .2 lbs
Nutrient profile for the above:
Crude protein -14.5%
Crude fat - 6.4%
Calcium - .79%
Phosphorus - .56%
Lysine - .8%
Methionine - .6%