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Miniature Ventures
Breeders of beautiful Miniature Horses with Action!
Quality Breeding  ~  Quality Transport

Larry, Maryann & Brianna Cerullo
5643 SW Minson Rd.
Powell Butte, OR 97753
Phone: 541-410-6222

E-mail: miniv@coinet.com


THE RH FACTOR FOAL



THE RH FACTOR FOAL

What is an RH Factor Foal?  Rh disease in horses once was called in  laymans'  terms, for humans with this problem, "Blue Baby" (which is different from the "Blue Baby syndrome, a congenital heart defect in human babies). It is when the mother's blood is RH negative and father is positive, and the baby ends up also being positive. The mother's antibodies are set up to work AGAINST the baby's. When this occurs with equines, the technical term is "Neonatal Isoerythrolysis" (NI). The following paragraph briefly explains:

Equine neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI) is a condition of foals that are born healthy, but develop a possibly life-threatening hemolytic anemia within hours to a few days after the ingestion of their mare’s colostrum. This condition occurs as a result of a hypersensitivity reaction between the mare’s antibodies in the colostrum and inherited antigens from the sire that are present on the foal's red blood cells.

To read more on the clinical description of the condition, we recommend reading the link provided:

http://www.vet.uga.edu/vpp/clerk/Bouchelle/index.php


Simply put, it's the antibodies in the mare's colostrum that is actually working AGAINST the newborn's. So, the colostrum will KILL the foal. This means locating colostrum from a different source and hand feeding the foal for the first few days of its life. It also means milking out the mom's colostrum until her regular milk is in. You do NOT want her to dry up. It can take up to three days of milking to be sure there is no colostrum remaining. The mare's regular milk is not a problem for the foal.

As with all of these "abnormal" circumstances, it is important to keep in touch with your vet. We, plus other breeding farms, have more than one mare birthing out during the season. This makes it a little easier to carefully take some colostrum from them during the first 24 hours of their foalings and freeze it for emergencies just like this. Another source for colostrum may be through your veterinarian who should know of horse breeding farms that can provide the Liquid Gold to your little one.

We advise people who have a mare due, to check with their vet regarding colostrum sources BEFORE the mare is close to foaling. There can be other situations with foaling where having a back-up is necessary -- One being, the mare has not bagged up!

How do you know if your newborn is a "RH Factor Foal"? How WE figured it out when it happened to us, was by observing the foal's behavior.... Each time the little one nursed, we started noticing that the foal would become lethargic and just wanted to fall asleep. A healthy foal would be more and more energetic and just take short naps. It only took a couple of nursings to make us realize that we needed to jump in and take action. Another symptom a person may notice is the foal appears jaundiced. (Yellowing in the white's of the baby's eyes and perhaps gum discoloration.) This indicates that the anemic reaction is occurring, as discussed in the article linked above.

There is also an easy "at home" test that some people like to do immediately after each birth: In a small CLEAN dish or cup, take a few drops of blood from the umbilical cord off the placenta (which may still be hanging from the mare) and add a few drops of the mare's colostrum. If it separates (curdles), you need to find a different source of colostrum.

While milking the mare out for those three days, some people like to muzzle the foal. This allows the pair to remain together and bond. For us, we didn't have a small enough muzzle, so kept them together, but built a separation between them with straw bales. They were kept under constant surveillance either in person and/or by camera. And since we were hand feeding the baby every two hours, this wasn't too difficult.....just tiring.
Here is an example of a home-made foal muzzle produced by Mona Stone of Last Chance Miniatures:

monas_foalmuzzle/foalmuzzlehalter.jpg        monas_foalmuzzle/foalmuzzlehalter2.jpg   There are commercially available muzzles but most are too big, Thank you, Mona!
 

By recommending the three day milking of the mother, we are being cautious. We want to ensure that there is absolutely NO colostrum remaining mixed into her regular milk. Normally, a foal's system only receives the benefit of colostrum during its first 24 to 36 hours of life, but every foal is different, so we feel it's wise to play it safe.

For hand feeding, our vet has always advised to do it every two hours (at least) around the clock. Having a second person to assist is a life-saver. We have used a human baby rubber "ear syringe" to feed with good success. Other people prefer to use either a medical syringe or a baby bottle. The amount can vary between from 2 to 4 ounces per feeding, depending on the baby. We let the foal tell us how much it wants.

Again, the above is based on our OWN experience. Please be sure to always check with your veterinarian for advice.