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Old 05-11-2011, 02:09 PM  
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Feeding Horses Alfalfa Hay vs. Grassy Hay

I currently feed my non-working horses grassy hay. But due to the fact that we received so much rain last year alot of my hay is less than stellar quality. I have contacted a person on some hay to help get my horses to the first and second crop this year but his hay is mostly alfalfa. I have never fed alfalfa to my horses before. I do know all about weaning them onto anything new.

I am wondering if there are any others out there that feed their horses alfalfa mainly and what are the negatives or benefits of doing so. Is there higher content of proteins and calories? DO I fed less or more than my average grassy hay?

Help!
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Old 05-11-2011, 02:39 PM  
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My horse are fed mainly alfalfa hay, It does have more protein and calories, and yes you should be able to feed less, Alfalfa does tend to make some horses hyper. Good luck in getting some good hay.
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Old 05-11-2011, 02:58 PM  
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They have pasture to eat on as well but not enough to sustain them. I am hoping that this alfalfa hay is of good quality....

Which leads me to another question: How do I know if his alfalfa hay is good quality?
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:13 PM  
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remember that alfalfa on horses not in work is hard on their kidneys...
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:18 PM  
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It has too much calcium. And you may need to add phosphorous to the diet. Also my POA devolped little nodules in his knee joint and the vet said no alfafa
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:25 PM  
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I think in combo with the grass they are getting, you should be okay until you can switch back. You might want to feed a small amount of a supplement designed to go with alfalfa just to be safe.

You will know if it is good by the delightful aroma, and the fact that your horses will INHALE it. And yes, feed less. The same rules as grass hay apply - the flakes should not stick together in a hard lump, and not be dusty. The color inside the bale should be quite green, though the outside might be pretty washed out.

Yes, try to transition rather than a quick change. I had to do this with my horses years ago because the grass hay was not available, and they did just fine.
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:28 PM  
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I do know stemmy alfalfa is more like a filler and the leafier it is, the more protein and calcium it has.
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:29 PM  
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Cathie...Kidneys... this I did not know. Why only to horses not in work?

SusanSpice.. I always thought that my grassy hay was lacking nutrients, therefor supplemented them.

Interesting...
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:33 PM  
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grass hay is what horses are designed to eat. Not that they don't love alfalfa, they do. I love chocolate too, but I can't eat as much as I want. LOL. I have had to feed it one winter and they were ok, but then again it was very stemmy and not good alfalfa at all.
Not so much lacking in anything but it has too much calcium for horses. It is really for dairy cows.
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Old 05-11-2011, 05:08 PM  
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Alfalfa has a higher protein level, and excess protein is excreted
It is not hard on any horse with healthy kidneys, but a horse that has compromised kidney function, like some aged horses, are not able to handle all that extra protein that needs to be excreted. That is the only time it is related to kidney function
What is a concern , feeding alfalfa free choice, is the higher level of NSC, and combine that with grain, you will get a sugar high and if your horse is IR, push him over the edge
Having said that, if only limited amounts of the hay is fed, and the horse has additional chew time on pasture, then many horses do very well fed alfalfa hay, esp young growing horses that don't have the gut size to process the larger amount of a less nutritious hay to reap the same nutritional benifits
I'm a great fan of erring on the side of caushion, thus avoid feeding grain or higher levels of NSCs to mature horses in light work. If they need more calories than the forage (either grass or hay ) provides, then I rather add cool calories in the form of fats and a highly digestable fiber like soaked beet pulp
My show horse is ridden 5 days a week during the summer and dry lotted. She is fed safe grass hay, soaked beet pulp with a special mineral mix, that includes the Omegas she is missing in a hay diet and has free choice salt. She looks great
The only way you will know what a hay contains is not by looking at it, or even completely by generalization according to type, but by having it anaylized by a lab that not only does the usual parameters geared for cattle, but also checks for NSC.
Hay varies not just according to type of hay, but maturity at time of harvest, soil it is grown in, and even time of day it is cut
The Ca in alfalfa does not concern me as much as the higher levels of NSC.
Having said that, there has been some co relationship to the formation of endoleiths and the higher Ca levels
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Old 05-11-2011, 06:22 PM  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smilie View Post
Alfalfa has a higher protein level, and excess protein is excreted
It is not hard on any horse with healthy kidneys, but a horse that has compromised kidney function, like some aged horses, are not able to handle all that extra protein that needs to be excreted. That is the only time it is related to kidney function
What is a concern , feeding alfalfa free choice, is the higher level of NSC, and combine that with grain, you will get a sugar high and if your horse is IR, push him over the edge
Having said that, if only limited amounts of the hay is fed, and the horse has additional chew time on pasture, then many horses do very well fed alfalfa hay, esp young growing horses that don't have the gut size to process the larger amount of a less nutritious hay to reap the same nutritional benifits
I'm a great fan of erring on the side of caushion, thus avoid feeding grain or higher levels of NSCs to mature horses in light work. If they need more calories than the forage (either grass or hay ) provides, then I rather add cool calories in the form of fats and a highly digestable fiber like soaked beet pulp
My show horse is ridden 5 days a week during the summer and dry lotted. She is fed safe grass hay, soaked beet pulp with a special mineral mix, that includes the Omegas she is missing in a hay diet and has free choice salt. She looks great
The only way you will know what a hay contains is not by looking at it, or even completely by generalization according to type, but by having it anaylized by a lab that not only does the usual parameters geared for cattle, but also checks for NSC.
Hay varies not just according to type of hay, but maturity at time of harvest, soil it is grown in, and even time of day it is cut
The Ca in alfalfa does not concern me as much as the higher levels of NSC.
Having said that, there has been some co relationship to the formation of endoleiths and the higher Ca levels

Sorry to sound like a dummy what is NSC?
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Old 05-11-2011, 06:26 PM  
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Originally Posted by MorganRiverStables View Post
Cathie...Kidneys... this I did not know. Why only to horses not in work?

SusanSpice.. I always thought that my grassy hay was lacking nutrients, therefor supplemented them.

Interesting...
Interesting question.. I am going out on a limb here and say it def affects all horses... but have to decide pros and cons horses in work require more nutrient wise.. however.. I am also not so much big on processed feed.. so somebody else is welcome to correct me.. but .... my opinion.

I actually only give alfalfa to my growing babies and very pregnant mares.. and this is given in form of hay cubes. 50/50 alfafla/grass. then I supplement that with amazing timothy...

and Bio equine minerals
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Old 05-11-2011, 09:28 PM  
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NSC stands for non structural carbohydrates (sugar and starch )
The only negatives of feeding excess protein to horses with normal kidney function, is the drain on your wallet
Excess protein is just excreted, does not cause OCD nor laminitis. THat was wrong information in the 80s, and still held by many that have not up dated
It is excess levels of NSC that is associated with both OCD and Laminitis in susceptable horses
I was trying to find the article by Dr Lori Warren,'Truths and Myths in Feeding horses', but it might no longer be on the web
Ps
I did find the article again, so will post the link here also that I have given a separate topic to
There is information relating to alfalfa hay, as well as other feeding misconceptions
http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs3243
Don't know why the link won't paste correctly here, but it does work on the new topic I posted, concerning Truths and Misconceptions in feeding horses
Wrong apparently-won't paste correctly there either
Thus I'll try to copy the alfalfa info here also, and if anyone wishes to read more, they might have better luck getting the link to work
I found the article by googling TRuths and Misconceptions + feeding Horses
Myth: "You Should Never Give a Horse Straight Alfalfa."

For horse owners, alfalfa is probably the most misunderstood feed. Perhaps this explains why there are so many wives' tales surrounding the feeding of alfalfa to horses. I'll attempt to diffuse a few of the more common myths about alfalfa below.

Myth: "You should never give a horse straight alfalfa."
Never say never. In California and the southwest United States, horses are routinely fed straight alfalfa as the only forage. In that region, alfalfa is cheap, plentiful, and the horses do quite well. While some horses may not need alfalfa, others would truly benefit from receiving alfalfa. The difference lies in what nutrients alfalfa provides, and what the horse actually needs. Alfalfa contains more energy, protein and calcium than most grass hays, such as timothy, brome grass, orchard grass, etc (Table 2). This nutrient profile makes it most suitable for young, growing horses and lactating mares, because they have high protein and mineral requirements (Table 3). By comparison, alfalfa exceeds the protein requirements of idle horses and performance horses (Table 3). That does not mean these horses cannot receive straight alfalfa. It just means alfalfa provides more protein than these classes of horses need. Alfalfa also tastes good, so it's useful when you've got a finicky eater or a horse with a poor appetite.

While alfalfa is more nutrient-rich than most other forages, it is not any richer than many other feeds commonly used for horses. For example, good quality pasture is often higher in calories and protein than alfalfa hay (Table 2). Leafy, rapidly growing spring pasture grass may contain 20 to 26% protein. By comparison, mid-maturity alfalfa hay will contain 16 to 18% protein.

Table 2: Comparison of the nutrients in alfalfa with other forages.*
Forage
Energy
(Mcal/kg)

Protein
(%)

Calcium
(%)
Alfalfa
2.30

15 - 18

1.3
Timothy
1.95

6 - 9

0.4
Brome grass
2.05

6 - 11

0.3
Spring pasture
2.40

20 - 26

0.4
*Please note these are average nutrient va
yth: "Alfalfa causes kidney damage."
Although alfalfa may provide more protein than mature horses need, there is no evidence to suggest that a moderate dietary excess of protein is detrimental to healthy horses. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. When horses (or humans) consume more protein than they need, the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the amino acids are used for energy and the excess nitrogen is excreted in the urine. Horses consuming alfalfa (and other high protein feeds) have been noted to drink more often and urinate more than horses consuming lower protein diets. But there is no reason to believe that a horse's kidneys will be damaged when this occurs. It's only when a horse already has pre-existing kidney disease that the high calcium and protein in alfalfa can aggravate kidney dysfunction.

When feeding alfalfa, it is important to provide free-choice access to water to ensure the horse can flush the excess nitrogen from its body. When alfalfa-fed horses receive only restricted access or limited amounts of water, they often produce more concentrated brown, thick urine.

Myth: "Beet Pulp is Just A Filler."
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Old 05-12-2011, 07:57 AM  
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Thank you for educating me. I have been doing some reading on this and feel as though I can make a more informed choice for my horses.

I hope others can use this information as well!
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:14 AM  
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I've never known the science behind alfalfa. We have some mixed in w/ our grass hay. One field has more of it then others. It didn't take long for us to figure out NOT to feed it to my daughter's barrel horse. You'd think he'd been drinking caffeine all day .. he'd be SO hyper. This thread helped me to understand why.
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:36 AM  
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smilie can u elaborate on the myth that beet pulp isnt a filler please?!
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:47 AM  
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here is more of the article:
http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs3243
(copy and paste into your browser, very interesting reading)
Myth: "Beet Pulp is Just A Filler."

Most old-timers will tell you beet pulp has no nutrition, "it's just a filler." Again, science has proved otherwise. Beet pulp is the fibrous material left over after the sugar is extracted from sugar beets. It's an excellent source of digestible fibre for the horse and can be fed in addition to, or instead of, hay. Recent research has shown that the fibre in beet pulp is easier to digest than the fibre in hays. In fact, horses may derive as much energy from beet pulp as they do from oats (Table 4). In other words, a pound of (dry) beet pulp has almost the same amount of calories as a pound of oats. Because beet pulp provides these calories as fibre (as opposed to the starch in grains), it can be safely fed in larger amounts without the risk of colic or laminitis associated with feeding a large amount of grain. Furthermore, the protein content of beet pulp (averaging 8 to 12%) is comparable to most grains and good-quality grass hays (Table 4). And, beet pulp also provides a reasonable source of calcium, intermediate between the high calcium in alfalfa and the lower calcium content of grass hays, but much higher than grains (Table 4).
Whether used as a source of forage or as a replacement for oats, beet pulp is a useful addition to the diet of many types of horses. Beet pulp has been successfully fed at levels up to 50% of the horse's total ration (approximately 10 lbs for a 1000 lb horse). More commonly, owners choose to feed 2 to 5 lbs of beet pulp per day. The high digestibility of beet pulp makes it a good choice for horses that are "hard keepers" (it's very good for encouraging weight gain), as well as horses with dental problems, or older horses who have trouble chewing or digesting other types of forage. Beet pulp is also used as a grain replacement in the diets of horses that suffer from tying up (providing calories as fibre rather than starch). And the low potassium content of beet pulp makes it an ideal forage replacement for horses with HYPP. Finally, endurance riders favour beet pulp because its high water holding capacity provides the horse with a larger reservoir of fluid in the digestive tract that can be used to help prevent dehydration.

Table 4: Comparison of the nutrients in beet pulp with the nutrients in other common feeds.* Feed
Fibre
(%)

Energy
(Mcal/kg)

Protein
(%)

Calcium
(%)
Beet pulp
20
3.15
10 - 12
0.70
Oats
11
3.30
12
0.09
Barley
6
3.70
13
0.05
Alfalfa hay
28
2.30
15 - 18
1.30
Timothy hay
35
1.95
6 - 9
0.35
*Please note these are average nutrient values and are presented on a 100% dry matter basis. .
Myth: "Beet Pulp Must be Soaked Before You Feed It." "If you don't soak beet pulp before feeding it, it'll swell up and rupture the horse's stomach." "Beet pulp will swell up in your horse's esophagus and cause choke if you don't soak it first." These are just a couple of the diabolical warnings surrounding the feeding of beet pulp. Because beet pulp seems to "grow" when water is added, somebody surmised that it could be a hazard if fed dry because it would absorb saliva and gastric juices, swell up, and block the esophagus or cause the stomach to burst. Although inaccurate, these evil predictions deter many horse owners from even trying beet pulp.
Beet pulp may soak up water like a sponge, but it cannot soak up saliva quickly enough to expand in the esophagus and cause choke. Instead, choke associated with beet pulp (particularly the pelleted form) is often in response to the particle size and the horse's aggressive feeding behaviour, rather than the actual feed itself. Horses that bolt their feed without sufficient chewing, or do not have adequate access to water, are far more likely to choke, regardless of the type of feed, compared to horses that eat at a more leisurely rate.
Nor is it likely that dry beet pulp will rupture the horse's stomach. The equine stomach holds 2 to 4 gallons. This volume is equivalent to 4.5 to 9.5 pounds of dry beet pulp, which is more than most horses receive in a single meal. Likewise, most food that enters the stomach passes on to the small intestine within 15 minutes or less—and for those of you who have timed how long it takes beet pulp to expand, it's longer than 15 minutes. Assuming free access to water, horses will voluntarily drink enough water to adequately process any amount of beet pulp consumed (1.5 to 2 litres per pound of beet pulp). Along with this drinking water, fluid is constantly entering the digestive tract, so beet pulp will not "suck the horse dry." Ultimately, the 40 to 50 gallon capacity of the equine digestive tract is more than sufficient to contain even a very large meal of beet pulp. The only horse in danger of a gastric rupture is one suffering from impaction or other severe lack of normal peristaltic movement.
So, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to soak beet pulp (either the pelleted or shredded form) in water to feed it safely to horses. Research at several universities, including some of my own studies, have fed dry beet pulp in amounts up to 50% of the total diet without choke or other adverse reactions. Likewise, many, many tons of dry beet pulp-based feeds are fed annually without incidence. For example, most commercial feeds designed for geriatric horses contain large amounts of beet pulp and are fed straight out of the bag without being soaked first. If you choose not to soak the beet pulp before feeding it, make sure your horse has access to as much good, clean water as he wants (which should be the case no matter what you feed).
Although soaking beet pulp is not necessary, there are several good reasons for wetting it down before you feed it. Soaking beet pulp may make the feed easier to chew, particularly for older horses with bad teeth. Soaked beet pulp may also be more tasty and it provides a useful method for hiding minerals or medications. If your horse gobbles down his feed or is prone to choke, it might be a good idea to soak your beet pulp. And while horses will drink water on their own, pre-soaked beet pulp is a good way to get some water into your horses, particularly in the winter when they may not be as inclined to drink what they need. So, if soaking beet pulp fits into your feeding management, by all means, do it. You don't have to soak beet pulp overnight-most of the expansion takes place within the first 3 to 4 hours.
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:54 AM  
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Is beet pulp a safe feed for a possible IR horse?
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Old 05-12-2011, 09:19 AM  
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What is an IR horse?
I have changed over to alfalfa cubes and beet pulp for my horses that are showing symptoms of ulcers. I have read that alfalfa is good for ulcers. One of my possible ulcer horses also seems to be developing Cushing's Disease. I have read that alfalfa is not good for Cushing's but beet pulp without molases is. What about Safe Choice, which has a high degree of rice bran in it? Don't mean to hijack this thread, but my horses developed their ulcers on Safe Choice, yet I've been told that Safe Choice is a good feed for horses with ulcers as it is low in starch and sugar, and good for horses with Cushings. I am very much interested in what people have to share on this topic.
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Old 05-12-2011, 10:05 AM  
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What is an IR horse?
Insulin resistance.
I think beet pulp is probably a very good choice for horses that are IR, as well, Cushings.
Its digestible fiber, not starch.
I believe you really have to watch starches and sugars with both types.
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