Creep Feed

Knowing when and how to creep feed your foal is key to their health and development.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Implementing creep feeders to your foals diet can be extremely beneficial to their development when done correctly. Journal photo

You can help solidify your foal’s nutritional foundation by creep feeding during his first year.

Creep feeders allow foals to become accustomed to eating solid foods before weaning time, reducing stress.

Plus, Gwen McBride from The Equine Research Centre at the University of Guelph in Ontario, says that to supplement growth in nursing foals, creep feed provides the nutrients that aren’t found in adequate amounts in mare’s milk – i.e., calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals such as copper, manganese, zinc and iron.

Meal Time

Erika Linderman, an equine nutritionist for Cargill Animal Nutrition, says foals become interested in solid foods at about 2 to 4 weeks of age. If you begin to creep feed at 8 weeks, you’ll generally see consistent weight gain.

A 3-month-old foal can consume about 3 pounds per day of a palatable feed, plus milk and pasture or hay. At this rate, a foal will consume about 3 percent of its body weight in dry matter, packing on at least 2.5 pounds each day.

If the foals you’re creep feeding are by your stallion, don’t forget to nominate that stallion for the AQHA Incentive Fund. Don’t miss this chance to get paid for showing and breeding the American Quarter Horses you love!

Putting out creep feed for large groups of foals can be counterproductive because dominant foals will consume too much creep feed, while less-dominant foals will be deprived of the feed. Creep feed in a box stall while the mare is tied and eating her own ration.


Erika suggests that weanlings be fed high-quality forage or pasture with a 14-16 percent protein creep feed at approximately .75-1.25 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight.

“Weanlings require the best quality, most nutritious and palatable hay you have in storage,” Gwen says. “Ideally, this is a mixture of grasses and legumes.”

The grasses increase the taste factor, while legumes improve energy, protein and mineral content of the hay.

Gwen says rations designed for weanlings should contain 14.5-percent protein and 2.9 megacalorie/kilogram of digestible energy. Lysine, the first limiting amino acid for growth, must be present in adequate quantities, according to the National Research Council. Alfalfa and soybean meal are high in lysine, while cereal grains and linseed meal are low.

Most forage lacks trace minerals. These deficiencies should be compensated for with a trace mineral block.

Weight Watcher

Monitoring your foal’s body weight is a key element to designing a suitable feeding program. Weight can be estimated according to girth and length measurements. For the following formula, length is measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock.

Weight (kilograms) = [girth (centimeters) squared x length (centimeters)]/8700

Enroll your stallion in the AQHA Incentive Fund by November 30 and start earning your rewards for points won at AQHA shows!

Developmental Orthopedic Disease

Managers of farms with a high incidence of DOD problems should closely monitor their weanlings’ grain consumption and exercise. Preventing accelerated, unnatural growth is vital to preventing DOD.

Grain consumption should be determined by the following:

  • The levels of protein, energy, calcium and phosphorus of the hay you’re feeding.
  • The total dietary protein and energy levels.
  • The proper ratios of calcium and phosphorus. Growing horses need a calcium:phosphorus ratio of at least 1.5:1.
  • The proper ratios of trace minerals.
  • The sulfur content of your water supply. An excessive amount of sulfur can affect the proper absorption of copper.

Whether you are a recreational rider or involved in English riding, cutting, reining, roping or racing, AQHA is here to help with your American Quarter Horse – the world’s most versatile breed. AQHA memberships have numerous benefits for both you and your horse.