Bandalero Ranch’s team of equine professionals offers comprehensive foaling services for your pregnant mare, including routine care for the newborn foal, priced at $1200.00 plus board. We recommend the mare arrives one month prior to the estimated foaling date. A limited number of mares with potential foaling dates from January 1st through May 1st will be accepted. Contact us at (520) 760-6200 to inquire about our foaling services.
- Ultrasound to determine position of foal and evaluation of placenta
- Foal Alert monitoring alarm to detect onset of foaling
- 24-hour monitoring
- Milk calcium screening to predict impending foaling
- Evaluation of the quality of the dam’s colostrum post delivery to ensure colostrum quality
- Umbilical cord care
- Enema administration to newborn foal to decrease risk of meconium impaction
Additional Services: (at an additional cost):
- NI Screening approximately 2 weeks prior to foaling (recommend)
- Veterinary services for non-routine events (i.e. dystocia, retained placenta, etc.)
- Newborn foal exam
- IgG foal test at 12+ hours
- Supplemental colostrum, colostrum substitute (i.e. Seramune® or plasma therapy) if needed
- Foal heat breeding services
In some cases, a mare’s milk can contain toxins that may lead to severe illness and potentially result in the death of the foal. Neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI), also known as jaundice foal syndrome, is a rare condition that can occur if the mother possesses antibodies against the red blood cell type of the newborn foal.
Foals are typically normal at birth, but they become affected if they ingest colostrum containing anti-RBC antibodies directed against their own red blood cells. NI occurs if the foal inherits the blood type of its father and if the mare’s antibodies are present in colostrum, the initial “mother’s milk” the foal will suckle. Exposure to these antibodies puts susceptible foals at risk.
During the first 24 hours of life, foals absorb antibodies from the mare’s colostrum after nursing. Ingesting colostrum is crucial for the health of the foal, as they are not born with antibodies in their blood to protect them from various infectious disease organisms they may encounter. Foals and other large animal newborns depend on antibodies from their mother obtained through colostrum, a process known as “passive transfer of immunity.” However, if a foal ingests colostrum containing antibodies against its blood type, its red blood cells can be damaged or destroyed, leading to anemia.
NI-affected foals typically exhibit clinical signs such as jaundice, weakness, increased respiratory rate, and passage of red-colored urine within 24 to 72 hours after ingesting “toxic” colostrum. Severely affected foals may die if left untreated.
Neonatal isoerythrolysis is a life-threatening condition for newborn foals. It can be prevented by pre-foaling screening of the mare’s blood. If a potential problem is detected, appropriate measures can be taken to prevent the death of the foal.
IGG TESTING ON NEWBORN FOAL
FAILURE OF PASSIVE TRANSFER: Early Testing is the Key
Patrick M. McCue
DVM, PhD, Diplomate American College of Theriogenologists
Newborn foals enter the world without antibody protection. Foals are entirely dependent on antibodies absorbed following ingestion of mare’s colostrum in the first few hours of life for protection against infectious diseases. Mares produce colostrum only during the last 1 to 2 weeks of gestation as antibodies are actively transported from their blood and concentrated in the mammary gland. After nursing the colostrum, specialized cells that line the small intestine of the newborn foal absorb the antibodies and transfer them into the foal’s blood. Absorption of antibodies by these specialized cells is greatest during the first 6 to 8 hours after birth and stops by 24 to 36 hours of age.
Failure of passive transfer (FPT) of antibodies occurs in 10 to 20% of newborn foals. A foal greater than 24 hours of age is considered to have failure of passive transfer if circulating antibody (also called immunoglobulins or IgG) levels are less than 400 mg/dl. A level of 400 to 800 mg/dl is considered partial failure of passive transfer and a blood IgG concentration greater than 800 mg/dl is considered adequate.
The most common causes of FPT are poor quality colostrum and premature lactation. Mares that drip or run milk for several hours prior to giving birth are losing colostrum that is vital to the survival of the foal. In that situation, it is recommended that colostrum be stripped or milked out of the mare and saved for the foal. The colostrum should be strained through a gauze filter into a labeled plastic bottle and either refrigerated or frozen if foaling does not appear to be near. Other causes of inadequate transfer of antibodies include failure of colostrum production (i.e. due to fescue toxicity), inability or lack of desire by the foal to nurse, prematurity, dysmaturity, foal rejection by the mare and failure to absorb antibodies that are ingested.
Early testing for antibody levels in a neonatal foal can identify potential cases of FPT and allow for early intervention and medical management. It is recommended that a blood sample be collected from a newborn foal approximately 12 hours after birth to evaluate circulating IgG levels prior to ‘closure’ of the gastrointestinal tract to antibody absorption. If IgG levels are <400 mg/dl at 12 hours, oral supplementation with frozen-thawed colostrum or a commercial colostrum substitute should be performed. If IgG levels are 400 to 800 mg/dl, the need for intervention and therapy is dependent on potential pathogen exposure and/or the medical condition of the foal. Foals with partial failure of passive transfer at risk of developing infections may benefit from IgG supplementation. In contrast, foals with partial FPT born into a clean environment with low pathogen exposure potential and good preventive management practices may not need supplemental IgG. Antibody levels of >800 mg/dl at 12 hours of age indicate that adequate passive transfer of immuno- globulins occurred and no additional testing or intervention is necessary under most management conditions.
Testing a foal at 24 hours of age or more will determine the final extent of passive antibody absorption. It is critical to understand that no significant amount of antibodies is absorbed if oral supplementation is provided after 24 hours of age. Foals greater than 24 hours of age identified with FPT require intravenous administration of plasma or a commercial equine IgG preparation to successfully increase blood antibody levels. Although plasma transfusions are commonly performed in foals for disease prevention and medical therapy, oral administration of colostrum early in the first day of life is unquestionably easier and safer to perform.
Early testing of a newborn foal can detect potential cases of failure of passive transfer in time for oral supplementation with frozen colostrum to be effective. A timely diagnosis and early therapeutic intervention will often circumvent a life-threatening medical crisis in a young foal.