Gut support to combat the stress of Weaning
By Sam Potter, Microbiologist
It will be no surprise to Thoroughbred breeders when we say that weaning is likely the most stressful event that will occur in a horse's life.
During stressful events like weaning, the microbiome (eg. bacteria, fungi etc.) in the gut changes and this may have negative consequences on health.
Providing support to the gut prior to and at weaning may minimise the longer-term impacts of weaning on your foals' development.
While stress is a normal response, it can impact your foals' development through lowered feed intake, weight loss and by increasing the risk of infection.
It isn’t clear if the gut microbiome changes in response to stress hormones or if the microbiome plays a role in regulating the stress response or a combination of both scenarios, but the key is that the microbiome changes when horses are stressed.
Studies have reported an increased diversity of microbial populations during stress, however this diversity appears to come from an increased number of pathogenic bacteria, which is undesirable.
During periods of stress we likely have a chain of events which could impact your weanlings health:
Change in microbiome diversity whereby numbers of pathogenic bacteria increase and cause damage to the gut lining;
Reduced capacity of ‘good’ bacteria, therefore, decreased production of nutrients produced in the gut eg. B-vitamins and vitamin K;
Increased requirements for some nutrients and;
- Reduced production of other nutrients in the body eg. vitamin C.
Steps to prepare your foals for weaning
It is apparent that the gut microbiome is altered during stressful periods such as weaning, so it is ideal to make dietary changes at least 14 days prior to weaning, and use Digestive EQ and Stress Paste strategically during weaning, with the aim of minimising the impact and length of gut microbiome changes in response to stress, to prevent long term impacts on your foal’s health and development.
- Transition to the post-weaning diet at least 14 days prior to weaning.
- Introduce Digestive EQ prior to weaning to ensure the ‘good’ bacteria are thriving and the gut lining is in good order.
- Use Stress Paste the night before weaning and for up to 5 days post-weaning for additional protection and support throughout the gut, plus provide essential nutrients during this stress period. Stress Paste also provides a powerful buffer and pectin which coats the stomach, both targeted towards reducing the risk of gastric ulceration.