Q: When can a foal be weaned?
A: Foals should not be weaned, except in exceptional circumstances before six months of age. Even at six months, weaning should not be considered unless the foal is in good physical condition, good health and is taking in adequate amounts of feed. If you wish to wean your foal earlier for particular reasons, you should discuss this with your vet. Waiting longer before weaning is generally not an issue, but should still be discussed with your vet.
Weaning is stressful both physically and psychologically. Careful management can help to ease the process, and thus reduce the overall stress of weaning. The physical stress of weaning can, for instance, be reduced by ensuring that the solid-feed intake is adequate prior to weaning, so that the removal of milk does not leave the foal deficient. The foal must also be in good health. Any signs of illness not matter how minor must not be ignored, and the foal must not be weaned until he has returned to full health. Psychological stress, on the other hand, can be reduced by introducing the foal to his post-weaning companions prior to weaning, taking more time over the weaning process and also by ensuring regular handling by humans prior to him being separated from his mother.
It is also worth noting that, while it has been common practice previously to castrate and worm foals around the time of weaning, this ‘attack’ can have a detrimental effect on the health, growth and development of the foal. It is therefore advised that foals are vaccinated, wormed and castrated either one month prior to weaning, or one month after weaning.