Feeding exclusively alfalfa hay? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 12-04-2010, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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Feeding exclusively alfalfa hay?

Is is bad to only feed alfalfa? With a minimal amount of pasture grass?

I'm wondering because Lacey's living with llamas that only get fed alfalfa (which I know is not good for the llamas, but their owner is a really opinionated guy that I want to stay on the good side of so I don't want to risk PO-ing him by questioning his animal care) and and she's basically shunning her own grass hay in favor of the alfalfa. That, in turn, is making the llama's owner irritated with me since his llamas aren't getting a chance to eat because Lacey is shoving them out.
So, I'm wondering if I got myself alfalfa hay and just started feeding Lacey that (it's the same price as grass hay, btw), instead of grass hay, would Lacey suffer any unwanted effects from that?
I've tried mixing a little of his alfalfa with my grass hay, but Lacey just picks out the alfalfa then goes off to bother the llamas...

And I can't separate them at feeding time since these llamas don't want to eat like that. They want to eat a little, wander off, eat some more, wander off again, etc.

Anyway, would that much alfalfa be bad for her? She doesn't get hot off it, she actually gets hotter off the grass hay than she does with alfalfa. Silly girl!

I might continue to feeding her grass hay as a munchy thing (since she will eat it if there's no other hay around) through the winter, but she'd get 3-4ish flakes of alfalfa a day... Unless that much makes her obese, in which case she'd get less. haha

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.
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post #2 of 15 Old 12-04-2010, 06:04 PM
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All of mine get only alfalfa. The only thing about Lacey is that she might start to put on weight again.
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post #3 of 15 Old 12-04-2010, 07:36 PM
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to much alfalfa causes kidney problems so ive bee told by a few equine nutrionists
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post #4 of 15 Old 12-04-2010, 08:04 PM
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I think she will be fine. I feed alfalfa hay all winter and have never had a problem. I think the real problem comes when your horse breaks into your hay room full of alfalfa, the consequences will be worse than if you had grass hay, lol. I do feed orchard grass or timothy pellets as well though. And mine still have access to some semi-decent pasture.

Perhaps try a mixed bale. I do think 4 flakes of alfalfa would cause her to gain weight.
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post #5 of 15 Old 12-05-2010, 12:15 AM
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In Arizona, many, many people feed nothing but alfalfa. I did for years and years, and so do most of my neighbors. The only reason I am feeding some bermuda with my alfalfa now is because I have a foal and I worry about his diet being unbalanced and him growing too fast. So he get some alfalfa and bermuda. But all my adult trail horses have gotten nothing but straight alfalfa and a small amount of grain as a treat.

I know there are a lot of folks with a lot of reasons not to feed alfalfa, but here in AZ it is the cheapest, most widely available hay, and I would say the majority of horse owners feed straight or close to straight alfalfa. I wish we could get good grass hay here, but bermuda is the only grass we get consistently and it is more expensive than alfalfa and my vet doesn't seem to feel it has a lot of nutrition value to it.
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post #6 of 15 Old 12-05-2010, 04:58 AM
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Our hay supplier had mostly alfalfa crops this year. The other crops of hay didnt grow as well because of the weather. So we've been feeding mostly alfalfa hay. The only difference was a little loose stool in the beginning.

Cocoa - 32 yr old QH, Cherokee - 8 yr old TWH & Toby - 16 yr old QH
R.I.P. Cocoa 4/13/78 - 2/9/11
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post #7 of 15 Old 12-05-2010, 06:03 AM
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How much pasture does she have?

Too much alfala/lucerne throws out the calcium/phosphorous ratio. If you balance it out by supplementing, you should be fine.

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post #8 of 15 Old 12-05-2010, 10:48 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys! Good to know.
4 flakes was kind of a randomly thrown out number. So I would adjust it to how much she's actually eating. Of the alfalfa she's getting right now, she's getting about a flake and a half (they're very small flakes, maybe 2ftx1ft, about 1 inch wide) everyday and about 3 flakes of grass hay (but it's REALLY yucky grass hay) and holding her weight pretty ok. I'd like to be feeding a lot less of the grass hay just because I know she doesn't hold her weight well on it (last winter she was up to 8 flakes of it A DAY and she got way too skinny).

Also, I'm thinking about getting her some beet pulp and starting her on that... Just for extra oomph.
She loses a lot of condition in the winter and I'd really like to get rid of the extreme difference between summer and winter. In the summer she is a little too chubby but in the winter, her spine just pops out like no other (it's not doing that yet but it's trying to come out to play) and I want this to be the winter where she looks great all winter. I think the thing with her is that to build good muscle she needs to look rounder and her ribs need to be completely covered, no way to feel them (if you can feel them, the rest of her body looks like it needs food), so in the winter when she loses that 50lbs, or whatever, that's making her round, she has a hard time building the muscle and keeping it. If that makes any sense whatsoever. Haha

Originally Posted by wild_spot View Post
How much pasture does she have?

Too much alfala/lucerne throws out the calcium/phosphorous ratio. If you balance it out by supplementing, you should be fine.
She has about 2 acres of pasture, that's fully covered in "grass". However, I'm not sure at all about the nutritional quality of the grass since we've already had major frost, a light snow, and we were below 15F for a few days.

What do you mean about supplementing? I'm totally new to this.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.
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post #9 of 15 Old 12-05-2010, 02:22 PM
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I'v always heard that when you feed alfalfa hay the horse needs to work as alfalfa is really high in protein. I'v also heard some horses that doesn't work not do so good with all that protein. for instance they give the alfalfa hay to race horses. it may just be a rummor but just thought I'd share that
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post #10 of 15 Old 12-05-2010, 03:28 PM
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speaking of alfalfa... I'm sorry, I'm going to hi-jack this thread...

When I went camping with my horse last summer, we are required to use certified-weed-seed-free hay, and there are only a few suppliers so far. (new-ish law) So pretty much my only option was this stuff that had lots of alfalfa and other high protein hays mixed in. (either that or some crap hay that looks like it's good for nothing but cows.) And my horse got all kinds of welts on her. HUGE bumps ALLLL over her body. I swear she looked like a giant roll of giant-bubble bubble wrap!!
The people I was with were using the same hay (same supplier) and their horses didn't react At All. They told me that they were "protein bumps" - which I've never heard of,.. but then my horse is a mustang and would get fat off dirt. Luckily some one else had some of the "cow hay" and I traded with her. The welts pretty much went away over-night. Soooooo...
Were they actually this "protein bumps" thing, or was it maybe an allergic reaction, or...??
(I know she has had alfalfa before, but that was when she had recently weaned a foal, was underweight, and needed the extra protein.)

I'm just confused and curious all at the same time. =P
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