Foal nutrition does not begin from the day the foal is born, but rather from the day the foal is conceived.
Providing the mare is in good condition, the final three months of her pregnancy is nutritionally vital, as the foal gains half its birth weight during this time. Once the foal is born, it draws ALL its nutritional needs from the mare for the first 3 months of its life. Whatever deficiencies the foal experienced in utero, as well as the first 3 months of life, cannot be rectified, and will carry the ill effects of those deficiencies throughout its life.
Once born, foals require 8 times more Lysine than adult horses. Lysine and methionine are just 2 of the essential amino acids that are often deficient in horse feeds. Essential amino acids are the ones a horse’s body does not have the ability to produce itself and can only be obtained through feed. Lysine is often called the ‘first limiting’ amino acid, meaning that if insufficient quantities of it are not present, the horse’s body will have great difficulty using any other amino acids currently available in the body.
Amino acids, both essential and non essential, are vital for virtually all of the horses body functions. They are involved in the synthesis and release of hormones and enzymes, the regulation of sleep, appetite and blood pressure. Primarily amino acids are needed for the formation and repair of muscle tissue and other soft tissue throughout the body.
On a fat-free, moisture-free basis, amino acids account for approximately 80% of a horse’s structure.
Amino acid imbalances are one of the things that lead to development problems in foals and should not be supplemented by feeding any single amino acid, but rather by adding a complete, balanced amino acid supplement to their feed.
Based on the findings of Dr Sarah Ralston: Associate Professor – Rutgers University USA