Raising Orphan Foals

If a foster mare is not available an orphan foal may be hand-reared. In the first 24 hours following birth it is critical that the foal receives colostrum. If colostrum is not available or there failure of colostrum uptake the foal will likely need a plasma transfusion (please consult one of our veterinarians). The foal can be bottle fed (warm milk is preferred), and later trained to feed from a bucket (initially at ground level then later from an appropriate height).


Following birth, a foal should develop a suckle reflex by 30 minutes, and should be sucking naturally within 2 hours. When introduced to a teat they should suck easily - if not, a suckle reflex can be initiated by placing a finger in the foal’s mouth and moving it slowly over the roof of the mouth and the tongue.   


When hand-rearing a foal, as a general rule, feed 10% of bodyweight in fluids (10L of fluid per 100kg bodyweight) each day. There a number of commercial, high quality milk formulas available and so home-made recipes should be avoided. Do not use liquid feed concentrations higher than 125 g/L.


Feeding Guide

Age of Foal Volume Per Feed (ml) Feeds Per Day Average Volume Fed Per Day (L)
1-3 days 500 10 5
4-7 days 625 8 5
8-21 days 1000 6 6
22-28 days 1500 5 7.5
29-56 days 3000 4 12
9 weeks-weaning  4000 3 12
Wean from 3-5 months if regularly eating solid food, pasture and hay      


  • Provide clean fresh water at all times.
  • Ensure clean, dry bedding and a warm environment at all times.
  • Prepare milk twice daily - store prepared milk in the fridge.
  • Dispense liquid milk into clean feeders (clean buckets etc. at least twice daily).
  • Bucket feeding can be commenced from 2 weeks of age.


Feeding Solids

Once the foal is bucket feeding satisfactorily a second bucket with solid feed can be provided ad lib. There are a number of foal rearing pellets and concentrate mixes available through stock feed stores. The manufacturer will have recommended feeding rates. Also provide good quality roughage / hay and access to pasture.


Depending on the quantity of available pasture onto which the foal is being weaned, feed supplements may be required after the weaning period.



  • Worming: Start at 6-8 weeks of age and treat every 3 months (or every 6-8 weeks in highly contaminated pastures).
  • Strangles Vaccination: Start at 12 weeks of age. Give three doses 2 weeks apart, then booster every 6-12 months.
  • Tetanus Vaccination: Start at 12 weeks of age. Give two doses 4 weeks apart, then booster 12 months later, then every 5 years.
  • Castration (Gelding): Sperm production starts at about 14 weeks of age. Usually colts are castrated / gelded between 9-12 months of age.
  • Dental Checks: Dental checks should start at 6-12 months of age and be performed every 6-12 months.
  • Branding: Performed at weaning or by 6 months of age.