Warning about alfalfa
   

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Warning about alfalfa

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  • Alfalfa pellets AND allergies
  • Alphalpha sensititivity in horses

 
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    07-19-2010, 10:07 PM
  #1
dee
Started
Warning about alfalfa

Please excuse any typos - my computer died yesterday and I had to resort to my laptop, with it's itty bitty key board.

Daughter took her two year old colt to the vet's today. He literally looked like a walking skeleton and was covered with icky scabs. We had no idea what was wrong with him - the farrier thought the scabs may be from a fungus, and the snotty nose may be the start of pneumonia.

We had been feeding him alfalfa pellets and a mare and foal formula because he had lost so much weight. He was eating his fool head off, but kept losing weight. Our other horses had lost a lot of weight recently - but that was more due to the neglect from their caretaker while we were on vacation than anything else. They are gaining weight, but not Junior.

Junior is a paint, and it turns out the scabs and sores were due to an allergy to the sun. The sores are only on his white areas. His biggest problem, though, is an inability to process alfalfa. Apparently something in his liver is unable to metabolize it properly, causing a build-up of toxins resulting in extreme anemia and weight loss.

It's really sad - the more alfalfa we fed him to help him gain weight, the more weight he lost - we very nearly killed him with kindness! We may well have killed his mother - she died New Year's Eve. Vet said he never thought about the alfalfa causing her problems. He's been seeing more and more of it - probably because more and more people are feeding alfalfa in the form of pellets, just as we are.

This does NOT change the value of alfalfa as a feed for horses, and we will continue to feed it to our horses as ususal - just not to Junior. I don't want to discourage anyone from using alfalfa - just be aware that it can cause problems in some horses - and that problem also seems to have a genetic link.
     
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    07-19-2010, 10:14 PM
  #2
Showing
Wow, that's horrible :(. I wonder if it is just a result of the concentrated alfalfa of the pellets as opposed to a bale that would also contain the stems along with the leaves . I'm glad you got it figured out and have got him on the right track. That is your baby's sire, correct? If so, at least you know to watch out for that with her now.
     
    07-19-2010, 10:23 PM
  #3
dee
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by smrobs    
Wow, that's horrible :(. I wonder if it is just a result of the concentrated alfalfa of the pellets as opposed to a bale that would also contain the stems along with the leaves . I'm glad you got it figured out and have got him on the right track. That is your baby's sire, correct? If so, at least you know to watch out for that with her now.
Actually, Junior would be Rain's half brother - they both have the same sire. Junior's dam is the one that passed away. Most likely he inherited the problem from her - his dad, Scooter, is gaining back the weight he lost just fine. Slower than we would like, but since we aren't feeding anything super high calorie, it will take a while.

You should see Junior, now. He looks like a pepto bismol pink walking skeleton. Vet gave daughter some sort of pink liquid called "Pink Lady" (of all things) to use on his scabs and white areas - it acts as a sunblock and is also kind of like calamine lotion on steroids. It's supposed to be good for all kinds of minor injuries.

My paint gelding, DJ also has some sunburn, and I'm supposed to use it on him, too. It lasts longer than using human sunblock, because it doesn't come off easily once it's dried and forms a physical barrier from the sun.
     
    07-19-2010, 11:23 PM
  #4
Started
I have a question about alfalfa and alfalfa pellets. Is there a way to calculate how much pellets to feed vs feeding flakes of alfalfa for a horse?
     
    07-19-2010, 11:30 PM
  #5
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plains Drifter    
I have a question about alfalfa and alfalfa pellets. Is there a way to calculate how much pellets to feed vs feeding flakes of alfalfa for a horse?
You go by weight for both. You'll have less volume of pellets, but you should feed about the same weight as the flakes of hay. An average 1,000 lb horse should get 15-25 lbs of Alfalfa hay a day, if that is their sole source of forrage.

That said, pellets cannot replace the long stem fiber found in hay. You should provide at least 1% of your horse's body weight a day in long stem fiber, like grass hay or mixed hay, even if you're feeding a high amount of hay pellets. If your horse is on good pasture (grass more than 3" long) all day, then that should be enough long stem fiber.
     
    07-19-2010, 11:33 PM
  #6
Green Broke
That is scary Dee! I'm glad your vet got it figured out for you though and Junior is on his way to recovery .

My Anglo Arabian (TBxArab) does better on Timothy hay pellets, with just a little chopped alfalfa hay in his feed (less than 1 lb). He has a mild sensitivity to Alfalfa, but it only makes him hyper, no other health issues. He just seems a bit more level headed on Timothy pellets. I have one mare, a Paint with a lot of TB in her, that is a dead head, lol. I'm adding whole oats to her diet to hopefully get some energy in her!
     
    07-19-2010, 11:55 PM
  #7
Green Broke
I knew a lady who had a paint that was allergic to alfalfa too. She also had problems keeping weight on the horse and it was sun sensitive. I wonder if that is something typical of that type of allergy?
     
    07-19-2010, 11:57 PM
  #8
dee
Started
Yeah - daughter is devastated at the thought that we may have been able to save her beloved Ginger just by taking her off of alfalfa. However, the mare did tend to colic if you looked at her cross eyed, and we aren't exactly sure what her exact cause of death really was.

Junior is feeling much better at the moment - but it won't last too long. Vet gave him a huge vitamin shot. It's just to give him a boost until the change in his diet kicks in... we've added Red Cell to help with the anemia.
     
    07-20-2010, 12:01 AM
  #9
dee
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by flytobecat    
I knew a lady who had a paint that was allergic to alfalfa too. She also had problems keeping weight on the horse and it was sun sensitive. I wonder if that is something typical of that type of allergy?

It's entirely possible, but I really can't say for sure. Ryle would know more about it than I would. I understand that sun sensitivity (it's got a technicial name - photosensetive - or something like that) is not uncommon in white horses, and horses with a lot of white on them.

I don't think my paint, DJ is allergic, though. He's just sunburned in a couple of spots.
     
    07-20-2010, 12:04 AM
  #10
Trained
Wow, that's a scarey thing to have to deal with...I think alot of vets most likely wouldn't even pinpoint the cause right away, much to the detriment of the horse!

Hope Junior feels alot better, and soon!
     

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