Almost one year, nearly 330 days, has passed. So much money has been invested. The endless waiting has come to an end, and now you have a precious little foal nursing alongside your broodmare. With this large investment you have made into just a few hundred pounds of cuteness, it is important to ensure your newborn foal gets the most protection possible, both from momma and your management practices. What he or she will become later in life is all up to you.
Passive Immunity – Nature’s Way
Although the foal is born with a capable immune system, many aspects of it are still undeveloped. For example, these young ones are not born with any antibodies – the blood proteins that attack the antigens that can make them sick. Due to this deficiency, they have to depend on their mom to provide a special first milk called colostrum. Colostrum is a nutrient-rich concentration of protective antibodies specifically designed to give baby what it needs for its first few months at life. Providing your foal with colostrum is often called “passive immunity” and must be provided by mom or by bottle within the first few hours of life.
Active Immunity – Proper Vaccinations
In order for this passive immunity to be effective, proper vaccination of your broodmare is critical, since those antibodies are developed by the mare herself. Without properly vaccinating your broodmare, your foal may be left vulnerable to diseases that otherwise could have been prevented.
By the time the foal reaches four months, the colostrum’s ability to protect the baby will wear off, and the foal will begin to be challenged by its environment, helping form its immune system. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), foal vaccinations should begin around three to four months of age with boosters in four-week intervals. Because practices vary based on region and situation, discuss with your veterinarian the best strategy for vaccinating your young one.
An Extra Boost
In addition to passive and active immunity, another resource to keep in your toolbox is Vitalize® Equine Recovery Gel. There is no doubt that seeing the world for the first time, fighting life’s first challenges, being poked by needles and then later taken away from your mother will create tremendous stress in your foal’s life. This stress leaves your animal more vulnerable to illness and will increase its occurrences of digestive upset. Not to mention, nearly 70% of the immune cells live in the gut, so nurturing the digestive system will consequently nurture your baby, as well.
To help boost your foal’s immune system at any time in its life and combat stress, the Recovery Gel is your go-to product. It delivers a dose of the precision prebiotic Amaferm® that increases the “good microbes” in the gut, MOS to decrease the “bad microbes” in the gut, electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals to help give them a leg-up in life. The Recovery Gel is also beneficial to mom after she has endured the stress of labor. In fact, mares are often prone to colic post-delivery due to a shift in her internal organs and microbial population. Learn how to mitigate the risk of post-foaling colic here.
Like anything in life, protecting your most valuable assets should be a priority, which is no different during foaling season. Be sure to provide your baby with its “first milk,” vaccinate your mare properly, form a strategy with your vet a regarding your foal’s vaccination schedule, and keep tubes of Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel in the barn at all times.