The objectives of this study were to investigate: (i) relationships between early foal health and their dams' reproductive health at mating/conception as well as after parturition and (ii) health status during early foal life and its association with performance as an adult. The study included 35 foals showing clinical symptoms indicating septicaemia, sometimes in combination with other disturbances, within their first 18 h postpartum (Group I). Eighty-eight foals that were healthy during their first few days of life were used as control (Group II). All foals were born in the same region of Sweden and during the same period, and were expected to become performance athletes based upon the pedigree of their parents. Cytological and bacteriological examination of uterus at the time of mating/insemination at which the foal was conceived, revealed no difference between dams of Group I and Group II foals. Within 2-3 days after parturition, 29% and 4% of dams (p < 0.001) of Group I and Group II foals had metritis, respectively. At 30 days post-parturition, 64% of the dams of Group I foals and 32% of the dams of Group II foals (p = 0.002) had cytological indication of endometritis, and 57% of the dams of Group I foals and 21% of the dams of Group II foals (p < 0.001) showed bacterial growth upon culture. Altogether 29% of the Group I foals and 7% of the Group II foals were killed or died before 2 years of age (p = 0.001). The majority of the remaining Group I foals were poor performers and some were used just for pleasure riding. It is hypothesized that (i) mares--delivering foals that compromised within their first 18 h postpartum--might have suffered from an ascending infection during late gestation and (ii) health status during early foal life might be associated with their performance as adult.
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