Horse Hay/Alfalfa/Grass Nutrition - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 05-04-2014, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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Horse Hay/Alfalfa/Grass Nutrition

Hello :)
My horses don't have pasture for grazing the whole year. I'd like to know the different nutritional values of average hay and alfalfa and the nutritional value of field grass and when they are the highest in sugars. (how to absolutely avoid laminitis) Also the difference between first cut 2nd 3rd so on.
Can a horse get laminitis from a diet rich in alfalfa (when there is no grazing available)? Plus can anyone recommend horse nutrition websites/books that explain phosphorus calcium ratios and good safe weight gain feeds and suppliments?
I have heard that yeast and apple cider vinegar are good for adding to feed for digestion and intestinal flora and sunflower oil a good additive to feed to improve condition. Guiness after a competition (old racehorse remedy) any others you know of?
Also treats - carrots and apples are the obvious but fennel watermelon raw potatoes sunflower seeds??



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post #2 of 9 Old 05-04-2014, 07:36 PM
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There is debate about the safety of alfalfa for IR/laminitis prone horses. It is higher in calories and protein than grass, but typically slightly lower NSC. I personally don't have a problem with it, but if the horse gains weight easily it may not be the best choice as a sole feed source as they won't get enough bulk.

I believe the safest grazing times are the earliest hours of the morning, something like 2AM-10AM, but I would have to double check. I think evening is supposed to be the worst.

As far as good info on balancing the diet, the website FeedXL is a very useful tool.

As far as hay that is appropriate, it varies wildly, so the best thing to do if you are very concerned is pay $20 to Dairy One to have your hay analyzed.

I like fresh ground flax seed better than any other fat supplement, but any high omega 3 oil is ok if you need to add weight or improve skin and coat condition. For treats, if you are concerned about sugar, alfalfa cubes or large sized pellets, flax based cookies (with no grain, molasses, flour), those kinds of things are safe. Many fruits are a bit high NSC.

Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe.~John Muir
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post #3 of 9 Old 05-05-2014, 04:29 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you Viranh. I will look them up. I thought sugar levels in grazing were hightest at night?
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post #4 of 9 Old 05-05-2014, 10:33 AM
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Katy Watts | Safergrass.org is everything for anything grass and hay.
Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group Inc. is for IR/Cushings horses and rather extreme, obviously necessary for sick horses, but gives you a good idea what is definitely safe to feed.
Alfalfa is low NSC, but relatively high in starch, which some horses can't handle. It is a healthy PART of a ration.
For treats, appless, carrots, banana, watermelon(messy lol), peanuts, fennel, yes. Potatoes I wouldn't give, just not horse food.... rather pigs and people lol
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post #5 of 9 Old 05-05-2014, 10:37 AM
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California Trace - Nutritional Support for Horses
at the bottom are the minimum requirements of vitamins and minerals
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post #6 of 9 Old 05-05-2014, 04:30 PM
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Raw potatoes, onions, garlic and peanuts are considered a no-no for horses.
The potatoes, garlic and onions have alkaloids that can be toxic to horses. You can however feed cooked potatoes and garlic, as far as I can remember onion is not recommended even cooked and you can feed peanuts that are roasted, as raw peanuts can contain a fungus that is toxic to horses and people. Also no tomatoes.

As for treats, most any fruit provided the seeds and pits are removed. Many horses like watermelon as mentioned and you can let them eat the rinds also with it, but should probably remove the rinds from something like cantaloupe.

Beer does nothing for horses, it won't get them drunk, but it also doesn't give them anything other than empty calories. There are many old wives tales about beer and none have been proven true.

As said by others it's best to test the hay being fed, this helps you by knowing what is lacking or too much of in the hay and you can adjust the diet from there as needed.
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post #7 of 9 Old 05-05-2014, 07:09 PM
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The grazing time/NSC level thing was originally from Katy Watt's page, but I couldn't remember specifically where and may have remembered her recommendations wrong... I don't use those guidlines. My mare can't handle more than a couple of hours, so she can only go out if I'm home and NOT asleep.

Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe.~John Muir
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post #8 of 9 Old 05-05-2014, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dressagista View Post
My horses don't have pasture for grazing the whole year. I'd like to know the different nutritional values of average hay and alfalfa and the nutritional value of field grass and when they are the highest in sugars. (how to absolutely avoid laminitis) Also the difference between first cut 2nd 3rd so on.
You can find analysis of various different hays, fresh forages, and feedstuffs at Equi-analytical's website. Things like NSC (sugar/starch) can vary significantly from batch to batch, depending even on things like what time of day it was cut. IME most hay providers don't test their hay, so you don't really know it's NSC (or other nutritional) value unless you get it tested yourself. You can lower NSC to some degree by soaking hay.

From what I understand, the cutting is less important than the maturity of the plant when it is cut. The more mature the plant, the more stems will be present. Stems contain a lot of lignin fiber, which is not digestible and will not provide energy to the horse like other types of fiber (cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin). A late 1st cutting will be very stemmy, while an early 2nd cutting could be very leafy. That same 2nd cutting could become very stemmy if left to grow a bit more before being cut.

One thing to keep in mind with hay is that it is different from pasture in that certain nutrients degrade very quickly. Vitamins A & E and omega-3 fatty acids are the big ones, and for horses that are primarily fed on hay year-round it's very important to make sure that whatever feed or supplements you're giving have these in adequate amounts to make up for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dressagista View Post
Can a horse get laminitis from a diet rich in alfalfa (when there is no grazing available)?
In general, alfalfa is lower in NSC than grass hay. It's more energy dense, however, so can still present a founder risk to overweight horses. If the main concern is sugars and the horse is at a healthy weight or needs to gain, then alfalfa should be safe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dressagista View Post
Plus can anyone recommend horse nutrition websites/books that explain phosphorus calcium ratios and good safe weight gain feeds and suppliments?
Horse Nutrition Explained is a good website to start on. "Feed Your Horse Like a Horse" by Juliet M. Getty is also a good basic resource, though to be honest I didn't find it to be as in-depth as I had hoped. When preparing a diet for your own horse, FeedXL Horse Nutrition: The D.I.Y. equine diet planner is a great resource. It's subscription based, but makes it very easy to put together a diet and see where holes are.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dressagista View Post
I have heard that yeast and apple cider vinegar are good for adding to feed for digestion and intestinal flora and sunflower oil a good additive to feed to improve condition. Guiness after a competition (old racehorse remedy) any others you know of?
I tend to stay away from most "old timey" remedies. Many of the good feeds out there already include probiotics, so adding things like yeast are only necessary if the horse needs more digestive support than average. The same goes for most supplements- they can get very expensive very quickly and often have no effect whatsoever, so do your research and figure out what the horse actually needs before adding stuff to a well-balanced diet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dressagista View Post
Also treats - carrots and apples are the obvious but fennel watermelon raw potatoes sunflower seeds??
I tend to stick to easy things for treats- carrots, alfalfa cubes, etc. Watermelon is also a great treat, though my horse hasn't been lucky enough to get any from me (I'm not sure he would take it anyway... he tends to turn down most treats, including sugar cubes!)

I'd be careful with "non-traditional" things like sunflower seeds, potatoes, etc. The striped sunflower seeds, for example, have very tough hulls and can potentially cause impaction colic. Many people feed the black oil sunflower seeds to their horses for the fat content without issue, though.
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post #9 of 9 Old 05-12-2014, 03:48 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone- I appreciate that you have all answered an will have a good look at the websites. :)
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