What is it? What does it mean? Now that foaling time is here, brushing up all the things that we need to do to prepare is just good common sense. After 11 months of gestation and the expense of feeding an in foal mare, vaccinations and de-worming programs; it’s important to keep our focus on the foal as well.
Just 5% of all mares will have a difficult foaling. While domestic mares are one of the hardest domestic animals to breed and keep in foal, it has been estimated that up to 25% of foals all summer passive of failure transfer or FPT. Unlike human counterparts, horses have no natural transfer of antibodies through the mother’s placenta and are reliant on the antibody rich colustrum.
So what is it?
A foal is born lacking immunoglobins- that is, it is born immuno incompetent. It is relatively defenseless against a variety of organism. Part of a good foaling management is to have the vet arrive within 3-5 hours of foaling and test the foal for Failure of Passive Transfer, as part of the mare/foal check post foaling.
A foal will almost always receive immunity from the colustrum that is available in the mare’s first milk. For the first 24 hours, and some say much shorter than that, the foal’s gut remains open to absorb the benefits of the mare’s colustrum. After 12-24 hours, the gut closes and if the mare did not have an adequate milk supply, if her colustrum was not of good quality, if she rejected the foal, or worse, if she had dystocia and did not survive the foaling, your foal will be at risk of FPT. This put’s the foal at greater risk of acquiring an illness that could quite possibly cost the foal it’s life or cost you in the thousands for neonatal care.
The vet will pull blood and within a few hours you will have your FPT results on the foal. It is always a good idea to have synthetic colustrum on hand and to wait for at least 3-5 hours encouraging the foal to nurse throughout this entire time before the vet takes the blood for examination.
A lot of people have asked me over the years -“what do I do when my foal comes in low or is suffering failure of passive transfer?” There are two trains of thought and both are determined by several factors. Some people cannot afford the high expense of pro-actively treating an otherwise healthy foal “just in case”. Certainly in this economy we all understand that sending a foal to a large animal clinic for pre-emptive care can be inefficient. In these cases, the foal should managed aggressively on the farm to prevent illness. The paddock that the foal is turned out should be of good quality and have been managed for turnover and rotation. The foal should be allowed to stay in a large foaling stall, presumably where the foaling occurred to prevent exposure to those environments that may put the foal at risk. And synthetic colustrum should be administered as a precaution. There are many products available on line. If the mare did not survive the foaling there are nurse mare farms that not only have a supply of colustrum available, but who can also provide a nurse mare for your foal.
The good news is, even if your foal comes up with a score that labels him as an “FPT Foal”, with aggressive management and clean care environments, most foals survive without outside intervention.