Alfalfa for an easy-doer? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 10 Old 10-15-2013, 06:22 AM Thread Starter
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Alfalfa for an easy-doer?

I think we can all come to a consensus that horses are better off without grains and I am now looking into pros and cons of replacing the daily (and tiny - 0.5kg) portion of whole oats my boy gets with a bucket of alfalfa pellets. He gets ad-lib grass hay 24/7 (and unlimited pasture time in summer), is a good doer and has a moderate workload (beginner level SJ training, trail riding, groundwork) 4-5 times a week, and the oats, which are a traditional feed around here, were for mixing in his supplements. I tried unmolassed sugar beet pulp, but he didn't really like it, so what about alfalfa? Is there a possibility that it may throw him off phosphorus - calcium balance, and, if so, how to supplement the needed phosphorus? He wouldn't be getting more than 1kg alfalfa pellets a day anyway. Also, is alfalfa an adequate energy source in case of harder training?
Thanks in advance! :)

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post #2 of 10 Old 10-15-2013, 08:14 AM
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I'm not sure about it being adequate nutrition should he need it during times of work because I lack experience there, but I took my horse off all grains about 18 months ago. At first I used a grass based “feed” pellet, which was nice and I liked it, but realized he didn't even need that and switched him to a ration balancer to make sure he got the nutrients he required.

Mine is on a forage only diet with about 6 oz daily (total) of the RB to round out any deficiencies, plus a small amount of hoof supplement.
Because I was concerned about specific things as my area's forage is known to be low in selenium and copper but high iron, I got on FeedXL for just one month to do all the calculations to make sure I had everything correct in my choices.
Doing this allowed me to make an unlimited amount of "test diets" to see which would be best and it also helped me tweak the right hoof supplement. The one I stared with, unbeknownst to me, was too high in iron considering how naturally high my soils and water already are in iron.

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post #3 of 10 Old 10-15-2013, 10:48 AM
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I give two handfuls of alfalfa pellets and soak, as a carrier for the supplements. That amounts to 3oz. Dry weight. Not even 100 grams.
As for energy, yes, alfalfa is higher. 900 calories/lb for grass hay, 1100 for alfalfa.
I don't think up to 1kg will upset the Ca:ph ratio, tho. Should you feed more to get more energy into him, you'd have to start balancing a little. In general, grains and brans are higher in Ph.
But I think up to half the ration with alfalfa shouldn't be a problem.
To be 100% sure, getting your grass hay tested would give you a better idea what is missing or too much.
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post #4 of 10 Old 10-15-2013, 11:16 AM
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I was feeding 50-75% alfalfa as total forage last year, and always give 1-3 lbs as a carrier for supplements and as a little protein and energy boost. I think it's a great feed as long as they get some grass hay too. Too much protein is hard on the kidneys. It is, however, high calorie and low NSC, which is why I like it. I have checked FeedXL and as long as I was split about 50/50 with grass hay and/or had an alfalfa formulated multivitamin, I didn't have a Ca:Ph problem. Horses looked really great on it. I recently switched to ADM primeglo, which is an alfalfa based RB instead of plain alfalfa pellets. Costs only a little more, and no more multivitamin! That could be a good option depending on whether or not you have an ADM dealer. Strategy healthy edge and Purina Ultium aren't terrible feeds either, though they are a little high NSC for me to be comfortable having a feed room full of it in my pony's pasture (~16-22%, not that bad, but alfalfa is a forage product and only around 10%, maybe 13% on a bad day. IR pony can eat it, I just worry about her getting in to it unsupervised).

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post #5 of 10 Old 10-15-2013, 11:59 AM
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I add some alfalfa pellets to a mix of low starch/low sugar pellets, chop/chaff (no molasses) and sugar beet. Mine are all easy keepers so they don't get a lot. I've had no sign of any problems
I did feed micronized oats, beans, peas, soya and maize/corn in the UK amount as per how much work they were doing and had no trouble at all using grains 'processed' that way, I've never seen them in the US at all but they might be available in other parts of Europe
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post #6 of 10 Old 10-15-2013, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
I add some alfalfa pellets to a mix of low starch/low sugar pellets, chop/chaff (no molasses) and sugar beet. Mine are all easy keepers so they don't get a lot. I've had no sign of any problems
I did feed micronized oats, beans, peas, soya and maize/corn in the UK amount as per how much work they were doing and had no trouble at all using grains 'processed' that way, I've never seen them in the US at all but they might be available in other parts of Europe

Does that process lower the starch sugar level in the grains?
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post #7 of 10 Old 10-16-2013, 09:18 AM Thread Starter
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spirit88, micronizing makes grains more digestible, but I doubt it lowers the sugar/starch levels.

Thanks for the opinions, everyone! It seems I'll give the alfalfa pellets a shot and I'm also considering sunflower meal - that's a feed high in proteins and fats and quite popular around here, but I've never heard of it outside our country, so you may not be familiar with it.

Jaydee, we can get Baileys feeds here, so I can get all the micronized I want. I actually liked how my boy looked on Baileys endurance mix this summer, but I'm not sure that all the ingredients (soy, for example) are really good for him in long term.

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post #8 of 10 Old 10-16-2013, 09:45 AM
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This is a link to the UK producers that supplied the place I used to buy from - it explains what the process does to the grain
Masham Micronized Feeds » Processes » Micronizing
A lot of the 'mixes' in the UK that have grain in them - like Baileys - only use micronized grains, you just have to try to avoid any that add loads of molasses and go for one that's aimed at what you do with your horse.
Not sure how energetic your horse is naturally - but I found that giving a lazy horse something to increase its energy helped keep its weight down - the problem with high sugar feeds is that the energy comes in a short burst rather than a more constant 'feel good'
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post #9 of 10 Old 10-16-2013, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
This is a link to the UK producers that supplied the place I used to buy from - it explains what the process does to the grain
Masham Micronized Feeds » Processes » Micronizing
A lot of the 'mixes' in the UK that have grain in them - like Baileys - only use micronized grains, you just have to try to avoid any that add loads of molasses and go for one that's aimed at what you do with your horse.
Not sure how energetic your horse is naturally - but I found that giving a lazy horse something to increase its energy helped keep its weight down - the problem with high sugar feeds is that the energy comes in a short burst rather than a more constant 'feel good'
Made the same observation. Hafi-mix, on restricted hay ration only would actually still gIn, with a handful of straight oats he started losing weight and was much more willing to move. And he never foundered either....whole 'nuther story tho.......
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post #10 of 10 Old 10-16-2013, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
This is a link to the UK producers that supplied the place I used to buy from - it explains what the process does to the grain
Masham Micronized Feeds » Processes » Micronizing
A lot of the 'mixes' in the UK that have grain in them - like Baileys - only use micronized grains, you just have to try to avoid any that add loads of molasses and go for one that's aimed at what you do with your horse.
Not sure how energetic your horse is naturally - but I found that giving a lazy horse something to increase its energy helped keep its weight down - the problem with high sugar feeds is that the energy comes in a short burst rather than a more constant 'feel good'

Thanks for that info jaydee I have to steer clear of grains for my horse. He laminatic so have to stick with a forage based diet that's low NSC.
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