Foals & Colostrum

With foaling season now upon us in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the importance of good quality colostrum. Colostrum provides antibodies (immunoglobulins), which are concentrated in a mare’s milk during the 10-14 days prior to foaling. These immunoglobulins are essential in helping to provide immunity against common diseases in a foal’s first few weeks of life.

If a foal doesn’t receive or absorb adequate levels of colostrum within 16 hours of birth, it is predisposed to a higher risk of bacterial infection. The capacity of the small intestine to absorb and transfer antibodies is greatest during the first 6-8 hours after birth. Thus the sooner a foal gets colostrum into it, the better. A foal’s ability to absorb colostrum declines substantially after 12 hours and within 24 hours after birth the specialised intestinal cells which absorb colostrum are replaced by cells incapable of transferring antibodies.

Colostrum contains three types of protein immunoglobulins:

*IgG- which helps to provide immunity against bacterial and infective diseases;
*IgM- for general immunity
*IgA- which increases in milk after a mare has foaled. IgA is unique in that it is not absorbed into the body. It provides local gut protection against bacteria, viruses and other germs that can cause diarrhoea in a foal.

Colostrum also has a natural laxative effect- which helps stimulate a foal’s bowels to promote the passing of meconium (accumulated wastes).

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