Alfalfa Question

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Alfalfa Question

This is a discussion on Alfalfa Question within the Horse Nutrition forums, part of the Horse Health category
  • Should horses eat alfalfa
  • How many flakes of alfalfa to feed a horse

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    05-17-2012, 11:09 AM
Alfalfa Question

I have an Arab (darling boy) who does NOT hold his weight well. We are finally getting it under control, and he's close to weight now. But he won't eat any hay except alfalfa. I mean, literally, if I feed him something else, he will not eat at all for at least 3 or 4 days, and then he'll pick at it, but won't clean it up. If I feed him some alfalfa and some of something else, he'll eat only the alfalfa and leave the rest. So here's the question. In order for him to maintain weight in winter, he needs about 4 flakes a day (our flakes weigh 4-5 pounds) along with 5 pounds of complete feed and 2.5 lbs of beet pulp. Is this too much alfalfa? Can it cause some sort of health problems? Is there something else I should try?

In the summer, it seems he needs about 2 flakes a day and a bit less complete feed as well (we have large pastures, he just spends more time active and less time grazing than our other horses). I just want to make sure that in the struggle to keep him at a decent weight, we're not causing some other issue that will shorten his life.....
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    05-17-2012, 11:15 AM
Green Broke
Most West Coast (USA)horses eat alfalfa their whole lives without problems. Feed a good ration balancer & you should have no problems.
themacpack likes this.
    05-17-2012, 11:42 AM
Thanks Natisha!
    05-17-2012, 11:49 AM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by calicokatt    
Thanks Natisha!
You're welcome.
    05-17-2012, 11:52 AM
My show horses eat west coast alfalfa year round.the only things you might watch for is if your horses are getting hot or hyper.and too much protein can cause club-footedness in young horses.
    05-17-2012, 06:48 PM
Green Broke
The main concerns with alfalfa are the high protein and calcium content. You should try to balance this out with the hard feed you're providing. Other than that, no problem with feeding just alfalfa.
    05-18-2012, 04:53 PM
Mine get that much alfalfa all winter long and they love it. If they get grass hay for whatever reason they look at you like "seriously?". Alfalfa and rice bran (they balance each other out in the calc/phos ratio) are a nice mix to get a horse to to put on weight and just get the bloom out in their coats, etc. One thing my barn owner will do with horses like him is give him his usual alfalfa, and then she will hang a hay net with grass hay in his stall as well, so he can clean up his alfalfa and can nibble on the grass hay without wasting it. The horses seem to like grass hay more if they can pull it out of a net, for whatever reason!
    05-18-2012, 05:23 PM
Most of my working horses get 20-40 pounds of alfalfa per day, we've been feeding that way for decades, and we've never had a problem.

Truthfully, if you're guy is having trouble holding his weight, I would up the alfalfa hay or beet pulp before I upped the hard feeds.
Wallaby and rob like this.
    05-18-2012, 09:51 PM
The only way I can keep weight on my Tb's is to do almost the exact same thing as you. But our flakes are about 7-9 lbs a piece. But in the winter I give them 4 flakes a day (a bales of grass hay gets thrown out there a day for grazing purposes) and I feed 4 lbs strategy gx 2 lbs beet pulp and a fat supplement. Works great for them.
    05-19-2012, 12:59 AM
Originally Posted by rob    
too much protein can cause club-footedness in young horses.
Really?? Never heard that one before. More info please?

Yes, the high protein can be a problem though, especially for older horses. As for other nutrients, can be problematic because of imbalances, but as others have said, so long as it's balanced with other supps/feeds, should be OK. I'd feed the 1st cut, stemmiest type.

Does your horse literally starve for 3-4 days if he's only given grass hay, or is there other grass/feed available to him? If the former, I'd be quite concerned, but if the latter, it might be just like a kid that's always given the junk he wants... he'll turn his nose up at his 'greens' knowing that the desserts will turn up eventually!

I'd consider consulting a nutritionist or getting onto or some such.

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