Foals aren’t born with antibodies inside them to help ward off disease.
Foals have a functional immune system at birth. Actually, they have a functioning immune system in utero—but it’s one appropriate to an unborn foal in a sterile and protected environment. Once that baby hits the real world, he needs real-world immunity.
Foals will get those important antibodies from their mother’s first milk, or colostrum.
This is why it is critical your foal’s first suckle is before 24 hours old, while their digestive system is still able to absorb the colostrum.
The rule of thumb is:
- Foal gets up within 1 hour
- Foal is nursing within 2 hours
- Mare passes the afterbirth within 3 hours.
As the foal gets older their stomach lining is less able to absorb critical colostrum, so you really want them nursing as soon as possible. 24 hours is the widely accepted limit at which the foal will no longer benefit from consuming colostrum and may need plasma antibodies instead.