Colostrum is the sticky, yellowish, first milk produced by the mare during the last few weeks of gestation and is stored in the udder until the foal suckles.
As your mare begins to produce milk, it will drip off the ends of her teats. This is commonly known as “waxing” as the dripping colostrum is thick and looks like ‘wax’ dripping from a burning candle..
Dripping of colostrum may occur 24 to 48 hours before foaling.. Excessive loss of colostrum prior to foaling down may result in an inadequate supply for the foal. So keep an eye out and monitor closely – and if possible try to collect it!
Colostrum is full of antibodies (or immunoglobulins) that the mare’s mammary gland has concentrated from her bloodstream. These antibodies will give the foal protection from invading bacteria and will help keep the foal healthy until their own immune system is strong enough..
Foals are only sensitive to IgG for the first 24 hours of their life. You can have a blood test done by your vet to check if they have received enough at 11 hours old. If they have not received enough there is still enough time to try giving fresh or frozen colostrum from another mare, or infuse with plasma… your vet will guide you in this decision.
Foals with inadequate antibody levels, are very susceptible to often fatal diseases such as infected joints (joint-ill), pneumonia, diarrhoea etc.
This is only a snapshot of what there is to know about Colostrum.. want to learn more about other foaling facts?
Head on over to our FREE foaling series on ‘What to expect when your mare is expecting’.
Remember.. knowledge is power!