What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Foal or Newborn, Nursing Constantly


Normally, a young foal nurses for a few minutes, sleeps, wakes, and nurses again.

In contrast, foals that constantly suckle may not be getting sufficient milk. In most cases, mares "come into their milk" and produce more milk over the first few days following foaling, but sometimes this does not happen.

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    • If this seems mild and the foal seems vigorous otherwise.

your role


What To Do

Assess the mare and foal's general health, paying particular attention to the mare's udder and the foal's attitude. Watch the nursing process carefully. Is the foal attaching and swallowing and truly ingesting milk? Is there dripping of milk from the teats, or milk accumulating on the muzzle?

Sometimes a foal is constantly trying to nurse because they cannot actually swallow milk. Strip some milk out in your hand. How much milk does there seem to be? What color is it? Does the foal appear to be gaining weight? Does its coat seem sleek or dull? A normal foal should have a shiny coat and be gaining weight day to day. They should be bright and playful, and sleeping in between periods of nursing. Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that the mare is not producing enough milk if her udder is empty. Unless you prevent the foal from nursing, there is no way to determine how much milk the mare is producing.

your vet's role

They will examine the mare and foal to determine whether the mare's milk production is sufficient, or whether there are other nursing-related abnormalities. In some cases, milk production can be stimulated, or the foal may need to be supplemented.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Did a vet assess the mare, foal and placenta soon after foaling?
  • Does the foal appear bright, alert and responsive?
  • Does the udder have milk in it?
  • How frequently is the foal nursing?
  • How old is the foal?
  • How strong does the foal seem to you?
  • How large is the mare's udder?
  • What are the mare and foal being fed?
  • Was an IgG antibody test done on the foal after birth?
  • Has your foal ingested life-saving colostrum yet?
  • Does the mare have a history of eating fescue hay or being on fescue pasture?
  • What are the results of the newborn foal exam?
  • Will a veterinarian perform a post-partum exam on mare, foal, placenta?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP