A few years back I heard of a friend who waited, in the early hours of the morning, outside the Co-Op, for it to open. She desperately needed to buy a pint of goat’s milk for her newborn foal that was dehydrated due to the mother not producing any milk. It was then I asked myself, as a pony breeder too, were we fully prepared for the what-if scenario?
I immediately decided that we would be prepared and this situation would never happen to anyone on Shetland ever again. We would help anyone if they needed us 24/7.
I phoned Joanne Vardon at The National Foaling Bank and so started the Shetland branch of this service.
Now Shetland horse breeders (they don’t have to be Shetland pony specific) have available 24/7 the Emergency KIt. This kit contains all that is needed to get a foal back on its feet if, for whatever reason, the mare has no milk. Included in the kit, is a rubber foal teat, sterilising tablets and mare’s milk replacer milk powder along with full emergency feeding instructions. There is enough in the pack to cover for a few days and details are supplied of where to buy more. This is supplied to me by The National Foaling Bank and costs a nominal £10 to anyone.
I also decided to have a supply of silver foil-type space blankets available to buy.
I bought a pile off Ebay and have used one myself on Celt, my ancient lurcher, who came back from a dog walk in the freezing rain in a terrible state. I can fully guarantee that they work quickly and effectively too. Like a badly behaved map, though, they are not very helpful about being refolded after use into their original tiny packet but do participate enough to live in a small bag. They cost just £1 each and are well worth the investment.
Some foals need a quick boost of energy to get them up and going. Every year, I buy in Foal Stim from MedicAnimal.com, This wonderful internet company does not charge postage to the Highlands and Islands unlike other firms whose charges ranged from £6 to £10 to post one small tube – extortion by any other name.
FOAL-STIM is a unique nutritional supplement of colostrum, enhanced with Prebiotics (Non-digestible carbohydrate) sources of Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and polyfructosans. Presented as an apple flavoured oral paste, presented in a ready-to-administer single use 20ml oral syringe. For newborn foals that are weak, underweight, failing to suckle or initially thrive.
Basically, it is Red Bull for foals and it works. Again, easy to give, quick and fast acting and can get a foal on its feet. Although not cheap, it is always worth trying and has saved many a foal’s life. It costs £16.00 a tube.
Mare’s Milk can be hard to source sometimes. So I try to keep in a 5kg bag of Multimilk available so, if they have decided to continue bottle or bucket feeding the foal, it can be purchased for, I think, about £19.00.
So that is the Shetland Foal Milk Service. I fund this service myself out of my own pocket. Everything is sold at cost price. This is not a charity (too much paperwork involved) and sometimes, if things are past their sell-by date, then they are not sold on and that is the way it goes. But I don’t care. It is only money. Even if no one uses the Service then good, it means their foals are healthy and surviving without intervention. That is my theory. And, if folk need us, we are there and available 24/7 to answer the phone, be by the door even in the wee small hours to hand out the Emergency Kit or whatever is needed. We don’t ever intend to replace the vet but to work along side or offer a quick solution when time is essential.
There is a mixed reception, I know, to this Service. Some don’t think it is worth it (a bullet is cheaper) but those that do use us and have had success, ie a live healthy foal, are grateful and appreciative.
I just don’t want to sit outside The Co-Op waiting for it to open to get a pint of goat’s milk for a foal. Not ever and I don’t want anyone else to either.