At the time of weaning, the foal should be receiving sufficient nutrients from its stud ration to maintain weight and consistent growth when the milk supply is removed. The aim thereafter is to maintain this even growth rate and good body condition by providing a source of concentrates that balances the nutrients supplied by the forage consumed, with adjustments made accordingly. Indeed, forage quality has a huge influence on the choice and quantity of complementary feed, with soft digestible forage being preferable to stalky, mature forage which is less easy to digest and can give rise to a “hay belly” appearance.
Youngsters on grass through the spring and summer will need considerably fewer additional calories from a supplementary feed than when consuming hay or haylage through the autumn and winter months but their protein and micronutrient requirements must continue to be met to support correct growth. Laboratory analyses of pasture and forage will indicate their exact nutritional contributions and assist in the planning and adjustment of feeding programmes to ensure that the nutrient intake is sufficient for individual growth. Provision of sufficient nutrients for muscular development and conversion of cartilage to bone is essential.