The effect of two different weaning procedures on the growth of pasture-reared Thoroughbred foals in New Zealand

The effect of two different weaning procedures on the growth of pasture-reared Thoroughbred foals in New Zealand
Peer reviewed


AIM: To identify if there was a significant difference in the average daily liveweight gain (ADG) between Thoroughbred foals weaned using two weaning protocols commonly used in New Zealand.
METHODS: Sixteen Thoroughbred foals were blocked for sex and age, randomly allocated into progressive (187, SD 33 days; three colts, five fillies) or abrupt (182, SD 28 days; four colts, four fillies) weaning groups, and weighed every second day for 2 weeks either side of weaning, then fortnightly from birth to 480 (SD 31) days old. ADG was calculated to examine the short-term (10 days before weaning, 5 and 10 days post weaning) and long-term (0–6 and 6–16 months of age) effect of the two weaning treatments.
RESULTS: ADG was 1.10 (SD 0.091) kg/day before weaning (0–6 months of age) and 0.59 (SD 0.06) kg/day from weaning to 480 (SD 31) days old. At the start of weaning, liveweights of the progressive and abrupt weaning groups were 276.5 (SD 40.3) kg and 257 (SD 15) kg, respectively (p=0.23). For the 5-day period during weaning, irrespective of treatment, there was a significant decrease in ADG of –0.29 (SD 0.49) kg/day and –0.15 (SD 0.30) kg/day for progressive and abrupt weaning, respectively. There was no significant difference in ADG between weaning methods at any measurement period (short or long term) during and after weaning. However, there was large variation between foals in ADG in the 10 days after the weaning process, which may indicate variation in individual foals’ responses to being weaned, rather than the weaning treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: Weaning, irrespective of method, was associated with a decrease in ADG in the first week after weaning. The method of weaning had no effect on post-weaning ADG either short term, 10 days after weaning, or long term up to 480 days of age. Practically, it may be more important to consider maturity and liveweight as criteria for weaning foals rather than age alone.
KEY WORDS: Horse, foal, weaning, liveweight, growth

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