My Only “Never Nurse” Foal, by Andrea Whittle, LVT

My Only “Never Nurse” Foal, by Andrea Whittle, LVT

Spring brings Foaling Season and ALL of it’s challenges and delights. Below is an article written about a true experience from Andrea Whittle, LVT, one of our board members and colleagues.  Please enjoy the read.

My only “never nurse” foal…

I wish I could start this story with an accurate number of how many neonates I’ve worked with but even the thought of that makes my head ache! Twenty one and a half foaling seasons spent in the ICU barn at a central Kentucky equine hospital equals a lot of foals!

Fast forward to 2019….

We were treating and monitoring a young TB mare with placentitis, with placental separation evident on ultrasound, through the last trimester of pregnancy when she decided to foal at the respectable time of 6am. She was only at 310 days of gestation. Her filly was small but correct with a lot of attitude right out of the gate. The filly had typical “preemie” characteristics with a fine coat and domed forehead; her early days in ICU were mostly uncomplicated as she gradually strengthened and grew. She was tolerating milk via an NGT well and was eventually allowed to stand for long enough to try and nurse. 

There are a million and one tricks to “teach” a foal how to position itself, suckle, latch and nurse properly. Every foal is a little different; some will resist all attempts to help them, some need to learn on a bottle first, others prefer to pan feed and, the best kind, don’t really need any help at all.

Well, this filly and all of her spunky attitude wanted nothing to do with anything on offer AT ALL. She refused to take a bottle, seemingly turned her nose up at the taste of milk, would actively look away from the mare and scamper off across the stall at the first opportunity. Attempts to even get her to latch onto a finger to strengthen her suckle were rejected. Pan feeding sessions usually ended up in me wearing milk soaked coveralls as she would try her hardest to knock the pan out of my hands. I spent many hours in her stall figuring out what to try next!

After several more days of maintaining NGT feedings and continuing to try different things every day I had a moment of absolute exasperation and left her milk ration in a small creep feeder while I left the stall to take a break. After some fresh air and deep breaths I came back to find the creep feeder empty and a very smug looking foal staring at me. From that day on she would drink her ration every two hours from the feeder as long as she was left alone. She never did latch onto a bottle or nurse from the mare and just thrived drinking her milk from a rubber feeder! 

Do you have a cool case that you would like to share and present for a case study?  Please consider sharing!   Learn more about presenting and publishing here.