Adoption service for orphan foals

In case the mother doesn’t accept her foal, doesn’t produce any milk, cannot raise her foal, or even worse, if she dies, Keros offers the opportunity to have the orphan foal reared by an adoption mare.

How much milk does a foal drink?

After birth, the mare starts to produce milk.  During the first few days, she produces about 7 to 8 litres a day, gradually increasing up to about 20 to 30 litres a day after 2 to 3 months.  The first 5 weeks, the foal drinks around 23% of its body weight in milk per day, reduced to some 20% of its body weight later on.  The foal does this in many feeds spread over night and day.

Research has shown that a newborn foal drinks from the mare every 45 minutes on average.  After two weeks, it still drinks 20 to 24 times a day.

Is there good artificial milk available and how much does it cost?

Mare’s milk has a special composition, containing a lot of sugars, more proteins and less fats, and a low dry matter concentration.  Cow’s milk differs strongly from mare’s milk, making it less suitable for foals. 
Today, there are very high quality artificial milk substitutes for foals on the market. They can provide for all nutritional needs of the growing foal, and if administered with sufficient frequency and volume, it is possible to obtain a normal physical growth.  Artificial milk for foals costs 0.45 to 0.60 €/litre. For the first 2 weeks, this comes to around 4-6 €/day and after that, it quickly amounts to 12-17 €/day.  For the first 3 months, this may run to € 1000 without considering the extra work and the absence of a mother teaching social skills to the foal.

Why prefer an adoption mare to artificial milk?

Foals need a mare for the milk in the first place, but in addition, the mare takes care of the rearing of the foal.  She protects it against weather influences and teaches the foal what is possible at what is not.  An orphan foal must do without this help, possibly causing  big problems, especially behavioural troubles.  In order to prevent such behaviourial problems and to spare yourself much work (bottle-feeding is very labour-intensive), it is highly recommended to take the foal to a foster mare.  Matching a foal with a foster mare may set a problem.  The foals whose mare dies at a later stage (as from a couple of weeks after the foal’s birth) are more difficult to be accepted by another mare.  Those foals are assiduously seeking their own mother and will generally not recognize the foster mare.  It has also something to do with the “wrong” rules of behaviour (those of another mother) that the foal has learnt.  The best thing to do is to bottle-feed such foals or to take them to a specialized raising farm.

How does Keros select its adoption mares?

Adoption mares, competently prepared by Keros, are also used at the animal clinics De Bosdreef and De Morette, and at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Merelbeke.  As soon as the adoption mare has accepted the foal, she accompanies the foal to the owner of the foal and stays there until after weaning the foal.  Subsequently, the mare is to be returned to Keros.

Tariffs for adoption and hire of an adoption mare:

Adoption procedure + hire of adoption mare (max. 10 months): € 1500
Stay of foal and mare after adoption: € 15 / day

Veterinary diagnoses and treatments of the foal are not included here.