Charleville Road, Newmarket, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Colostrum

Hinged DoorHello again I hope you are all well and looking forward to the foaling season?!

In continuation of our last blog I decided why not write about colostrum for the foal? Why is colostrum so important? Unlike humans, foals do not receive any antibodies from the dam’s bloodstream. In horses the placenta has six layers which inhibit the passing of large particles such as immunoglobulins (antibodies), resulting in the foal being born with little or no antibodies. While the foal does have an intact immune system it cannot respond to bacteria as quickly as that of an adult.

Colostrum is the first milk that a mare will produce after giving birth to her foal. It has a thick yellow consistency which gives rise to the term “waxing” – when the mare nears foaling milk drips from her teats. The colostrum is full of immunoglobulins that the mare has stored in her mammary glands. This will give the foal protection for about eight weeks until its own immune system is functioning. The colostrum must be consumed within the first 12-24hours of life as it must be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract in this time.

Generally good quality colostrum is yellow, thick and sticky. If the first milk is white and thin it is indicative of poor quality colostrum. The IgG (gama globulin) should be tested within 24hours of the foals life.  If the foal doesn’t present with an adequate level of IgG then supplementation should be administered. One to two litres of plasma usually are sufficient to raise the IgG level to safe limits.

Colostrum can be stored for up to two years but it’s important to thaw it out in warm water as microwaving will denature (kill) the immunoglobulins.

Overall it’s best to monitor the mares colostrum and by just doing simple checks you can tell if it’s of any quality. Testing the foals IgG and treating accordingly will save you in the long run as a good start is half the battle right?!

Thank you for reading,

Yours,

Clare

References:

  • TheHorse.com,. ‘Colostrum For Foals’. N.p., 2014. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
  • 2015.Web. 9 Mar. 2015.