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The short goodbye: Weaning foals
Date:10/6/2011

ion with Sandra Rose-Meierhfer of the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering, Potsdam-Bornim and with other scientists at Vetmeduni Vienna, Regina Erber in Aurich's group elected to examine three ways in which female foals can be separated from their mothers. One group of foals (A) was subjected to the "short, sharp shock" method: the mothers were all removed from the foals' stable at once. Another group (B) was treated in the same manner but two other mares, not related to any of the foals, were present from the foals' birth until the end of the experiment. The final six foals (group C) were subjected to sequential removal of the six mothers, with two mothers taken away each day for three days. The animals' behaviour was closely monitored to see how they adapted to independent life, levels of stress hormones in the foals' saliva were measured and their heart rates were followed (changes in heart beat are associated with stress).

The results were dramatic. The most obvious conclusion was that weaning under any circumstances is extremely stressful. All foals lost weight after being separated from their mothers and the levels of stress hormones in their saliva were similar to those found when horses are transported, which is known to be associated with a high degree of stress. The hormone level immediately after weaning was not found to depend on the method of weaning, so it seems that irrespective of the weaning procedure the animals are discomfited. But there were nevertheless significant differences in how long it took the foals to come to terms with life without mum. The researchers found that foals in groups A and C needed much longer to gain weight after weaning than foals in group B and showed many other classical signs of stress, e.g. they whinnied more often and spent more time walking around, presumably searching for their mothers.

It is clear, then, that weaning foals in the presence of other mares helps reduce the lengt
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Contact: Christine Aurich
christine.aurich@vetmeduni.ac.at
43-066-460-257-6400
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
Source:Eurekalert

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