While alfalfa is a good source of protein, it may not be a good choice for some horses. Protein metabolism produces more heat and can impair a horse’s ability to dissipate it. Extra protein must also be urinated away, which can lead to dehydration.
Before feeding hay, always check it for foreign objects, dust, mold, blister beetles, and poisonous weeds. These include ragweed, groundsels, Johnson grass, Sudan grass, and water hemlock.
It’s a good source of calcium
Alfalfa hay is a good source of calcium, and it is able to absorb more of it from the soil than grass forage. For this reason, it is an important part of a horse’s diet in areas where calcium-rich soil is available. It also provides an excellent source of protein and energy. When fed in moderation, it can be a valuable part of a healthy diet for many horses.
It is important to consider the calcium-phosphorous ratio in the diet when feeding alfalfa. Grass hay tends to have lower levels of calcium and higher levels of phosphorus than alfalfa. This can cause issues with the horse’s skeletal system. Feeding alfalfa in conjunction with low-calcium grass hay can balance this ratio and reduce the risk of problems.
The high protein level in alfalfa may cause a horse to urinate more frequently. This is because the body breaks down the protein to use as energy. This process produces ammonia which is filtered through the kidneys and excreted in the urine. This can increase the amount of water a horse drinks, which is not necessarily bad.
Some horses benefit from the high protein in alfalfa, especially young foals that are not receiving enough milk. Alfalfa is also a great addition to the diet of young horses in training, as it helps buffer stomach acid. In fact, a recent study showed that horses on a high-protein, high-calcium alfalfa and grain diet experienced fewer gastric ulcers than those fed a low-protein, low-calcium bromegrass, and grain diet.
When selecting alfalfa, look for clean, green hay with a good leaf-to-stem ratio. You should also check that the hay is not dusty or moldy and has not been weathered. Having the hay tested for nutrient content is a good idea, as it can vary depending on age, maturity, and harvest conditions. The best time to harvest is when it is still young, just before it begins to bloom. This way, the hay will be more nutritious and have a better flavor.
It’s a good source of protein
Alfalfa is a good source of protein, especially for horses. It is also an excellent calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium source. It is also rich in vitamins A and K. It is an ideal feed for pregnant and lactating mares. It is also a good choice for horses that work a lot and need more protein in their diets. It can be fed as hay or in alfalfa cubes.
If you feed your horse alfalfa hay, be aware that it can trigger laminitis in horses that are predisposed to this condition. The hay’s high protein and calorie content can overload the horse’s system with amino acids, which it cannot store and must be degraded by enzymes to release energy. This will increase glucose and insulin levels in the blood, which can cause the development of laminitis. If you feed your horse alfalfa, monitor their glucose and insulin levels carefully to ensure they remain in a healthy range.
Many horse owners think that alfalfa causes diarrhea, but this is not true. In fact, the microbial population in the digestive tract changes when you switch to a new feed, and this often causes softer stools. However, alfalfa hay can help to prevent colic by preventing the hindgut from dehydrating.
Another myth about alfalfa is that it will make your horse hot or crazy. This is not true, but it can happen if you feed your horse too much of it. It has a lot of calories and can provide too much energy for a horse that is not getting enough exercise. This can lead to weight gain and health problems.
It is important to feed your horse a balanced diet that includes alfalfa. It can be a valuable addition to working the ranch and performing horses’ diets since they need more protein and energy than other horses. It is also a good choice for pregnant and lactating mares or young growing horses. But be sure to watch the calcium-phosphorous ratio in the ration since alfalfa has higher levels of phosphorous and lower levels of calcium than grass hay or feed concentrates.
It’s a good source of phosphorus
Alfalfa is a good source of phosphorus, an important nutrient for horses. It’s also high in calcium, making it a great addition to a horse’s diet. However, it’s not for every horse and should be fed sparingly. It can be a problem for insulin-resistant horses, and is prone to black blotch disease caused by the Cymodothea trifoliata fungus.
Alfalfa typically contains more digestible energy, crude protein, and calcium than grass hay. It also tends to contain fewer nonstructural carbohydrates (sugar and starch) than other grasses, making it a more nutrient-dense feed. However, hay quality and harvest conditions can affect nutrient levels. It’s important to have your hay tested to determine the nutrient content.
Heavily pregnant or lactating mares and young, rapidly growing horses benefit from alfalfa’s high protein and calcium content. However, a diet that consists solely of alfalfa is not recommended for most horses because it is highly nutrient-dense and can lead to weight gain and colic. It may also cause a horse to produce too much urine, as the body breaks down excess protein into calories and eliminates it in the form of urea. This leads to wetter, smellier stalls.
Horses that spend a lot of time exercising or working hard can benefit from alfalfa, as it provides more energy than most grasses. For this reason, it’s a popular choice for ranch horses and performance horses. However, for older horses that aren’t worked as much, alfalfa can be too rich and can lead to gastrointestinal problems or even colic.
Duren cautions that endurance athletes shouldn’t eat too much alfalfa because it has a high protein and calcium content that can interfere with the body’s ability to mobilize bone stores of phosphorus during intense exercise. However, he recommends incorporating small amounts of alfalfa into the diets of endurance horses to meet their increased energy needs.
Before purchasing alfalfa hay, look for clean hay that’s not moldy or dusty and has a high leaf-to-stem ratio. Also, check the hay for blister beetles and other pests that can be harmful to horses. If you’re not sure whether the hay you’re buying is safe, ask your local feed store for advice and get it tested.
It’s a good source of potassium
Alfalfa is a rich source of potassium, which can help to prevent muscle cramps and maintain the normal balance of salts in the body. It also contains other nutrients that are important for horses, including vitamin A and calcium. These are important for the development of bones and teeth. It is also a good source of fiber, which provides slow-release energy and helps promote healthy digestion.
Many horse owners choose to feed their horses a mix of grass hay and alfalfa. They are able to increase the protein levels in their horses’ diet by adding alfalfa. This is a good choice for performance horses and working ranch horses who get a lot of exercise. However, it is not ideal for older retired horses who don’t do much work. Alfalfa may be too rich for them and can cause colic or stomach upset.
It is also a good choice for pregnant mares and growing young horses, especially those with sensitive digestive tracts. In addition, the high levels of phosphorus and potassium in alfalfa help to prevent dehydration. It is also a good option for horses with ulcers because it acts as a buffer against stomach acid. However, it should not be fed to horses prone to colic, as too much can lead to ammonia buildup.
The higher protein content of alfalfa is ideal for working ranch horses, performance horses, and thin horses. It is also a great calorie source, which can help them gain weight. The high protein levels can also reduce the risk of osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in young growing horses. However, balancing the ratio with other nutrients is important, as too much protein can cause OCD and other developmental problems.
When choosing alfalfa, buying hay that has been cut recently is best. It is more nutritious than hay which has been sitting around for a while, as it has less mold and other contaminants. You should also check the hay for blister beetles, as they can contain a toxin called cantharidin, which is deadly to horses. Blister beetles are more common in years following drought, and a good way to identify them is to look for the bright green color on the top of the leaves.