Switching to Alfalfa?

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Switching to Alfalfa?

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    03-15-2011, 10:59 PM
Exclamation Switching to Alfalfa?

I am moving my 8 year old TB to a new barn that feeds all alfalfa hay. They feed 3 flakes in the am and again in the pm. The grain they feed is a 12% pellet. My horse is currently eating a 12% sweetfeed and pretty much free choice grass hay. Now, the hay he gets currently is certainly hit or miss. Sometimes its a nice leafy Timothy hay, and sometimes I swear its just straw. So the alfalfa is a step up. But how to a balance the high protein of the alfalfa and the 12% he will get from grain?

There are so many different lines of thinking out there on alfalfa. Some hate it, some love it. I was just wondering if anyone out there is currently balancing their horses diet on alfalfa and how did you adjust your grain? Any information on an alfalfa diet or suggestions on weaning him onto the alfalfa would be sooo appreciated!!
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    03-15-2011, 11:08 PM
Why do you give the horse grain at all? I don't understand, other than feeding some vitamins or minerals that are missing from a particular region's hay, why do we feed grain? I hope I don't come across as preachy. I genuiinely don't know why this is done. I don't understand why horses can't get enough calories from good hay?
    03-16-2011, 12:13 AM
Tiny I give hard feeds to my comp horse. I feed it for the fact that I can enhance his coat, it helps with muscle conditioning etc.
But if you've just got a horse that isn't out competing, is a healthy weight and not doing a huge amount of work, I certainly wouldn't bother!!

Wancata, is this a common practice where you are, for barns to feed out all of the agisting horses the same feeds?? I don't see how this would work as horses metabolise at different rates just like humans, have different works loads and different requirements in general.
Do they HAVE to give your horse alfalfa/lucerne or can you say you want grass/meadow hay fed to him instead if you can supply it?
I feed lucerne (sorry finding it hard to call it alfalfa I'm an Aussie!) to my guys, my comp boy gets 2 biscuits a day and 2 biscuits of meadow hay a day. He is also on a hard feed which has been balanced to provide an appropriate phosphate/calcium combination when fed in conjunction with lucerne, and he looks a million dollars. I love the stuff!
    03-16-2011, 12:20 AM
Hard feed? Is that a combination of grains? What's in it? I know horses gobble it up and it smells good, but what is actually in it? Is it providing more fats for the coat to look better? I love giving the horse some grain, only because he loves getting it, but in a week he is too hot to handle.
    03-16-2011, 12:29 AM
Hard feeds can be anything that isn't a hay or supplement such as oil or msm.

My boy gets Prdye's EasiResult (can google them if you like), which is a combination of sunflower seeds (brilliant for their coat) oils, lucerne chaff, and a scientifically formulated 'pellet' which contains a perfect balance of their essential vitamins and minerals.
Along with the EasiResult, I feed SpeediBeet and Ricebran. Speedibeet is not a feed to be fed on its own, but basically its function is to assist in digestion of the feeds that it goes with, and allows the horse to take more from the feeds than what it would without the speedibeet, thus its a great one for putting on weight and coat conditioning, and you don't have to feed as much of your other concentrates.
The rice bran, it has a high fat content so is great for coat and weight. My fellow has dropped some weight lately so he's had his rice bran upped a little and the weight came straight back on.

I then feed oaten chaff, just for bulk in the feed so he's not eating straight concentrates. As well as the supplements - msm for joint protection, calcite for balancing his calcium intake (ricebran is high in phosphorus so needs a little extra calcium in the diet to balance this), and Konke's Own Cell Vital which is an all round vitamin and electrolyte that he gets when he's worked harder than usual.

Bit complicated, but he is looking very good on it. If I had him on straight meadow hay and maybe some lucerne, it would make things harder for me when trying to show prep him and condition him.
    03-16-2011, 01:03 AM
I want to be YOUR horse! I am getting hungry just reading that. What a program! I could never keep all that straight. Your horse, hope he knows how lucky he got it.
    03-16-2011, 01:08 AM
Haha yeah well he eats and lives better than me. Gets his rugs washed weekly, tail is bagged, gets brushed at least once but more often twice a day to keep oils going through his coat etc. Lucky LUCKY bugger he is.
Yet he's still decided that he's going to be a little toad of late, had a real good go of it yesterday and then ran away from me in the paddock today. Thinking he might need a visit to the chiro like him mum, wonder if they'll discount it if we book at the same time :P
    03-16-2011, 01:34 AM
Hi Wancata,

Firstly, why/to which horses/how much do they feed the horses at this barn? There may be good reason for them doing what they do, so look at the specifics. Perhaps for eg, they are feeding alfalfa as a supp to adequate grazing? (Altho 6 biscs a day is a lot) Surely they don't just feed all the horses the same? If they do that, it's not a good practice at all & I would look at suppling your own feed for them to dish out.

Lucerne/alfalfa is generally a pretty good feed for horses, being rich in a number of nutrients, high energy and low in sugar. However, being high energy, it may not be appropriate & should be fed sparingly to 'easy keepers'.

Being very high in protein it may not be appropriate for older horses. Being high in calcium, phosphates, potassium, etc it also needs to be fed *as part of* a balanced diet, or else it is liable to cause other problems associated with overdose & imbalance of nutrients. It also depends where it's grown, the season/growth stage it was cut as to what exactly is in it, and some recent studies by my nutritionist suggest it can sometimes be so high in something(sorry, forget, but think it's phosphorus) that it causes severe magnesium deficiency(excess Phos. Suppresses Mg), which can lead to a number of probs, including laminitis.

So while it may be good for your horse to have some alfalfa, I would definitely NOT be feeding it as the primary, let alone only source of forage.

As for the grain, why is it fed? Perhaps it's a 'ration balancer' that is effectively a pelleted supplement. If not, your horse will likely also need a supp that balances his nutrition. 12% protein is not low, so I'd want to look at how much/whether this is needed to balance the ration. Also depends what is in it. Eg. Is it grain(some use that term ambiguously)? Is it sweetened? Generally unless fed for a good reason, grainy, starchy feeds can be lumped together with sweetened feeds & 'cookies' etc - they are junk food & not good for health.

Originally Posted by tinyliny    
Why do you give the horse grain at all? I don't understand, other than feeding some vitamins or minerals that are missing from a particular region's hay, why do we feed grain? I hope I don't come across as preachy. I genuiinely don't know why this is done. I don't understand why horses can't get enough calories from good hay?
Tee hee! Because that's just What You Do of course! There are some good reasons for feeding grain - such as to help balance nutrients - phosphorus, especially, to provide extra 'fast' energy for hard working horses, etc. In these cases & fed properly(ie little & often, well processed because horse's systems don't digest it well), it is generally OK. But even then can be problematic and IMO there are generally better, safer feeds for energy & nutrition. Unfortunately you're right, that a lot of people just feed grain without understanding why - just because it's the traditional 'Done Thing' in their neck of the woods.
    03-16-2011, 01:42 AM
Loosie you are very right and I agree with you regarding people feeding grains because it's the 'done thing'. Hell I remember when I was a pony club kid, the more grain you fed your horse, the 'cooler' you were!!!

Now it's just a pain in the butt and is so expensive, hence only the comp boy gets a hard feed and that's for a reason as stated above - plus he is worked 6 days a week with at least 3 to 4 of those days being quite intense work. So he needs that extra feed to give him the energy for this work, and to build the muscle and coat that I am looking for.

But why anyone would feed it 'just because' I don't know... why waste your money? Particularly on these 'grains/hard feeds' that are super cheap, processed, 'junk' that really does absolutely nothing for the horse and just makes the owner feel better for giving the horse a hard feed! Silly silly silly!
    03-16-2011, 08:48 AM
Loosie - The owners of the barn just believed in the nutrition that alfalfa has to offer. I know they brought a few horses back from very low weights and the stable hands were quite proud of their feeding regime. I am not familiar with this kind of diet and felt a little bit leary of it. I chose to move there regardless because everything else about their care was just far to perfect to pass up, I will just have to balance my horses diet myself.

I am providing my own hay to wean him on to the alfalfa slowly (VERY slowly) and am hoping I can just continue to ask that they feed some timothy hay if I provide it.

Given their 3 flakes of alfalfa am and pm, is there a certain feeding pattern your suggest (anyone that replied, really)? Like, 2 flakes alfalfa in the am and 2 flakes alfalfa with 2 of my own timothy in the evening? Cut back the 12% grain?

I really appreciate the help guys, the care of my horsey is my #1 priority! He's my baby!

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