Before I moved to Hawk Hill, I was living on a small horse farm and enjoying a lifelong dream of breeding and raising horses. 2009 was my 4th year of breeding and that year brought the first orphan foal- rejected by a mare unsure of how to care for her first foal. While we were able to help the foal get a little colostrum, and initial blood tests were good, we lost the foal to an unknown infection around midnight of it’s 5th day- his last moment’s spent with his head in my vet’s lap and his body on my own. It was a heartbreaking end to that breeding season and ultimately what made me decide to sell all but 2 of my horses and move to Hawk Hill the following year, but was a educational experience in many ways.
One valuable skill garnered from that brief experience with an orphan foal was how to build an insulated foal feeder, in order to avoid having to wake up and feed every two hours. Actually- I can’t even take credit for building this contraption- I simply headed to a small, locally owned hardware store with an igloo cooler and a pitiful look on my face and, after I explained what I needed, they located and even glued together all the needed components.
Unfortunately that means I cannot provide a detailed step by step, however when I ran across photos of that feeder I realized I did take detail photos that might be helpful for someone frantically scrambling to create their own.
1 igloo water cooler or equivalent
3/4″ pvc pipe fittings
2-3 foal nipples
1 brand new bucket brush or toilet brush for cleaning
1 bottle brush for cleaning PVC outlet
First, you’ll need an Igloo cooler. Anything but the 2 gallon will probably be too large- and the 2 gallon coolers are hard to find- but even with the charge for 1-day shipping, Amazon’s price for either the 2 gallon or the 5 gallon Igloo Coolers is lower than I can find them locally.
Essentially, all that is required is to unscrew the spigot that comes standard in an igloo cooler, and replace it with appropriately sized PVC fitting’s. You will need a foal nipple and a hose clamp- lamb nipples, which may be easier to find at a local feed store will work, but a calf or pig nipple will NOT work to get a foal suckling. Once your PVC fitting is secured into the cooler, you’ll pull a nipple over the spigot and secure with a hose clamp.
The nipple will need replaced and the spigot and bucket interior cleaned with each feeding, but the labor of cleaning was well worth not having to get up every two hours and feed! The milk replacer we used could be left in the cooler for 6-8 hours before needing to be replaced, but you should contact the manufacturer of the milk replacer you use to see how long it can sit unrefrigerated before needing to be dumped and remixed.
You’ll need to mount your cooler in a very stable way – a lead rope through the molded plastic handle and attached to a hitch plate works great. Foals naturally butt and nuzzle their dam’s udders to help her produce milk – they will try this same behavior on your feeder, and if it’s not hung well it may dump or damage your feeder.