Thursday, August 5, 2021

Calcium and Early Weaned Foals

Nutrition is only one issue we're facing with Epona, the others being aspiration pneumonia and early separation from mama, and the stress that causes.  We have her on meds, and ulcerguard, and next to mama, with lots of love from us through out the day, so I'm turning my attention to nutrition, and how to get the right amount of calcium, and other nutrients into her system, without replacer pellets (which she completely rejects.)

When we're most insecure, we retreat back to what we know is safe.

I think that's the case for humans, and it has certainly been the case for Epona. She wants to drink water from the same place she drank water before her separation, the automatic waterer, and she wants to eat the supplement she ate before she was weaned, the Omolene 300.  I think she has retreated back to what is safe and comfortable.

I purchased NW Mare and Foal (very high in calcium, and Tumbleweed loved it when he was weaned), LMF Developer, (What I have Tweed on now), Equine Senior (which Epona used to nibble from her mother, and she tends to like a bit), and replacer pellets (she doesn't want any of them). She seems to only want Omolene 300 and a little of the ES (which is lower in calcium) 

I compared nutritional values of the top 3 choices:

Mare's Match: 2%-2.5% calcium, phosphorous .9%

Foal-Lac: 1.1%-1.6% calcium, phosphorous .7 %

Omolene 300: .8%-1.3% calcium, phosphorous: .55% minimum

As you can see, the calcium is lower in the Omolene versus the replacer pellets, but not significantly so--not as much as I would have imagined. 

When we left the clinic, our vet told us to feed her timothy grass hay and alfalfa, and it turns out, alfalfa is very high in calcium, but has a high calcium to phosphorous ratio. Timothy is better balanced between the two, but lower in overall calcium.

I'm letting Epona's body tell her what to eat. She has one bag of alfalfa, and one of timothy--hung in her stall separately. She's eating her Omolene very well. She's also getting liquid vitamins each day.

All of this comes at time when I'm also ordering in hay. I have 2 tons of an alfalfa / grass combo being delivered tonight, and I need to make a decision about what else I'm going to stock--timothy and alfalfa.

Now, we have our round bales put away for us every year from our supplier, so the horses have grass hay available 24/7 all year round. What we put up in the barn--usually about 10 tons--is extra. It's for horses who are stalled, or horses with special needs, or extra nutrition on the really cold days.

We supplement Cowboy and Tumbleweed with alfalfa. Epona is eating it now, too. But we try to reach two goals--1/ nutrition, and 2/ biological necessity for horses to graze all day. Shirley pointed out that denying a foal, like Epona, access to hay (which I had considered doing to force her onto pellets) could cause ulcers. My vet agreed with that.

All this is to say, I think I'm going to put up all 3 types this year: pure alfalfa, timothy, and alfalfa/grass mix, plus grass round bales.

It seems like our needs change every year, depending on the needs of the herd. How about all of you? What do you feed, and why?

Oh, and Shiloh sent me this article from Last Chance Corral. Look at this section. Sounds like what we're already doing. It makes me feel better about her replacer pellet rejection. She is almost 10 weeks, and probably safe on this new diet she has chosen.


  1. I think you are on the right track. One thing you can check is if the calcium / phosphorus ratio of oats would balance out the alfalfa; maybe a bit of oats with alfalfa would have the right balance? But run that by your vet.
    Once you get that pneumonia under control the rest is going to be easy.
    I hope Shiloh is much less stressed now and not having any issues with her pregnancy.

    1. I’ll ask the vet. Shiloh is doing much better, and coming to see Epona when she can. Epona does really love her, and is always happy to see her. I imagine that was imprinted early, and since her mama, Cowgirl, also loves Shiloh, I’m sure that was passed to Epona, too, since foals learn so much from their dams. Epona hasn’t regained her energy yet. When I see that, I’ll feel like we’ve turned a big corner. I’d like to see her running and bucking again.

  2. Given all that is going on I would be fretting as well. I think you are being logical. I quite like the mad barn supplements. They will also do a feed analysis for you. Here in Canada the delivery is included in the price and it arrives in a couple days.

  3. We grow and feed our own grass hay, with no alfalfa. Including our pastures. Nemo and Cierra are both allergic to it. I don't know our exact grass seed mix (Brad takes care of feed/hay) but it either has no Timothy or very little. Nemo is allergic to that too. We supplement our horses am & pm with Purina's Enrich, everyone but Cierra. She gets Strategy, it's more robust. I found this feed comparison site, you can change parameters:

    Not much help with Epona's nutrition. I like that you are giving her options. She is a lucky girl to have you/r family caring so diligently for her.

    1. I should have also added Nemo has a Calcium build-up urinary condition that prevents him from eating alfalfa.

    2. That’s great that you grow your own hay. I’ll check out the feed comparison site!

  4. Good to hear that Shiloh is stressing less. I'm sure Epona loves all of you. She's a very lucky little girl to have so much care and love surrounding her. You're doing everything you possibly can to make her better and I'm sure it will all work out for the best.

    Our gang eats grass all day and a few flakes of hay at night. They get their feed and supplements in their grain. I'm not sure what type of hay it is as my daughter takes care of all the feed. She's just better at picking feed. I really think you've got it all figured out.

    1. You’re lucky to have a daughter who knows so much about nutrition! I go back and forth about alfalfa. I had the 2 tons of mix delivered, and it is high on the alfalfa side. The problem with a mix is that you don’t exact ratios. I’m probably going to put up a bit more of the grass. Times are tough for hay out here, and we’re lucky just to get any at all. Prices have skyrocketed, and change daily.

      You’re right about Epona being close to all of us. If she pulls through all of this, she will be a people horse. Cowboy is a people horse, and also an orphan foal. They’re special.


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