What do I do with the new foal after it arrives?

Try to allow the mare and foal to bond naturally, and keep “visitors” to a minimum. If the mare is not standing still for the foal to nurse, you may need to halter or otherwise restrain her. It is very important that the foal get all the colostrum, or fist milk, which contains antibodies necessary for a good start to the immune system. The foal can absorb these antibodies through the blood vessels in its intestines for the first 18-24 hours of life, so all the colostrum needs to be consumed by then. The vet can perform a simple blood test after that time to test the antibody (IgG) level of the foal. If it is too low, we recommend a transfusion of hyperimmune plasma, which can be done at the farm or in the clinic. The vet exam also allows us to detect potential problems early, and vaccinate the mare and foal for tetanus (if the mare wasn’t vaccinated ~30 days prior to foaling; see pregnant mare vaccine regimen under client education). You or your vet can disinfect the umbilical stump (where the umbilical cord naturally breaks off) with a diluted chlorhexadine or betadine solution, and give the foal an enema as needed to ensure passage of the meconium (first stool, very dark and hard). Watch for urine leakage from the umbilical stump or a complete lack of urination, straining to have bowel movements or profuse diarrhea, irregular nursing, raspy breathing, or swelling of the joints, and call the vet immediately if you have any concerns; a sick foal can deteriorate rapidly.

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