The Horse

OCT 2017

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 18 of 51

October 2017 THE HORSE 19 They found that weaning, regardless of treatment, affected rectal temperature, nasal discharge, and one test's detection of Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemic- us. It increased serum cortisol levels and both decreased and increased cytokine production. "When analyzing the effects of P. acnes treatment on these parameters, treatment modulated rises in cortisol after weaning and affected production of IL-1β, which may indicate enhanced innate immunity," says Adams. "Looking back at both studies, though," she continues, "foals in the P. acnes study were a bit older at wean- ing, almost starting to self-wean, and we didn't see as drastic a decline in immune response as we did in that first study (PPVO) when the foals were a little bit younger when weaned. You have to be cautious in how you look at it, because they were two different crops of foals done in two different years, as well, but the results go along with studies that have shown behavioral differences for different weaning ages, and those behav- ioral differences—the increased vocaliza- tion and motor activity and decreased appetite—(negatively) influence the immune response." In other words, older foals might simply be able to cope with the stresses of weaning better and, thus, remain healthier through the process. "Of course we'd like to put this theory to the test," she adds, "by conducting a study in which we wean foals during the same year but at different ages to really determine whether or not age impacts changes in immune response during the weaning period." In sum, while these two studies con- firmed just how stressful weaning is on the body, the evidence isn't strong enough at this time to recommend either of those treatments. Upcoming Studies Adams and her colleagues have two additional studies in the works. In one, which she hopes to begin this fall, she will examine nutrition as an immunomodula- tor in weaned foals. "Basically, the study would involve choosing components with the potential to nutritionally support the immune system during times of stress," she says. In the other study, which might begin in 2018, she will look at certain vitamins' ability to enhance immune response in foals during weaning. Other Considerations Factors that might impact your selection of a weaning method and the subsequent amount of stress your foal experiences include: ■ The number of foals you'll be weaning; ■ Facilities available (for example, pas- ture vs. stall); ■ How much time you can or want to devote to the process; ■ The mare and foal's temperaments; ■ The foal's age; ■ Feeding changes you've instituted prior to weaning (e.g., creep feeding); ■ Whether you prefer an abrupt or a gradual weaning process (e.g., remov- ing one or two dams per day from a group or separating foals from dams for progressively longer periods each day); and ■ If you favor lone vs. group weaning, including using unrelated mares or geldings as companions. Take-Home Message As you consider ways you can help your foal—and his dam—through the weaning process, examine proven methods based on research findings to formulate a plan. h Dr. Jill Mixer says one of the most stressful forms of weaning is putting two foals together in a stall and leaving the mares out in the pasture. PAULA DA SILVA

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