Safe to switch to alfafa? - The Horse Forum

 
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post #1 of 9 Old 02-06-2013, 05:44 AM Thread Starter
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Safe to switch to alfafa?

Short story:

Gelding has been free choice grass hay all winter. He was holding his condition well except for this last month.

Last bale and a half got uncovered from the tarp protecting them and isn't fit to be fed to pigs.

Have a week to find hay so it's either:

I can buy hay from the same guy at $50/bale for a crapshoot on quality/weight or buy $145/bale at 1300lbs second cutting alfalfa.

The bales are large squares so I can either set it up to slow feed with a net or just flake off to feed. He is slightly underweight and I wouldn't mind seeing another 50lbs on him but not sure if jumping up to that rich of a forage that quick would be a good idea. Should I go with the lower quality grass until I can find a good mix hay or go ahead and get him an alfalfa bale?
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post #2 of 9 Old 02-06-2013, 08:17 AM
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Switching to alfalfa needs to be done slowly. Many people will tell you not to feed straight alfalfa, some say it doesn't matter. You need to do that research and decide what to do but either way you can't just up and switch to straight alfalfa overnight.
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post #3 of 9 Old 02-06-2013, 08:58 AM
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Agree with poppy1356, the switch needs to be done slowly, especially with 2nd cutting alfalfa. I don't know the age of your horse, but alfalfa is generally too high in calcium for horses. Older horses can tolerate it better than younger ones. I seem to have fewer problems feeding straight grass or grass/alfalfa mix hay.

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post #4 of 9 Old 02-06-2013, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info :)
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post #5 of 9 Old 02-06-2013, 01:24 PM
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Agreed, switch him over slowly over a few days if you can. As for feeding straight alfalfa, we've done that for years (until recently because we can't find any affordable alfalfa) with no problems.

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post #6 of 9 Old 02-07-2013, 03:19 AM
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Why do you want to feed him alfalfa? Surely he's not skinny in only a month(& if he is, there's likely something wrong) & losing a bit of weight in winter is not a problem at all - it's when they're in 'good condition' year round that probs happen due to not using up fat stores.

If you do feel the need to feed alfalfa, it's a great feed, but high energy - so not great for 'easy keepers'. It's quite high in protein, calcium, etc, which needs to be considered. High protein can be a problem & generally it seems that if around 1/4-1/3 of the forage is alfalfa, that's a reasonable amount of protein for most horses.
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post #7 of 9 Old 02-08-2013, 03:42 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie View Post
Why do you want to feed him alfalfa? Surely he's not skinny in only a month(& if he is, there's likely something wrong) & losing a bit of weight in winter is not a problem at all - it's when they're in 'good condition' year round that probs happen due to not using up fat stores.

If you do feel the need to feed alfalfa, it's a great feed, but high energy - so not great for 'easy keepers'. It's quite high in protein, calcium, etc, which needs to be considered. High protein can be a problem & generally it seems that if around 1/4-1/3 of the forage is alfalfa, that's a reasonable amount of protein for most horses.
It's more of that's the only type of hay left around here. I may have found some hay that's a good grass mix I'm hoping to pick up this weekend. He's dropped about around 50lbs, he's not unhealthy skinny by any means, just can feel his ribs a little too easy for my taste.
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post #8 of 9 Old 02-08-2013, 04:00 AM
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I know hay is really tough to come by in your state this winter so getting what you can that's clean and affordable is pretty much priority. I don't know your horse's age or breed or feeding conditions, but with quality second cutting you are safest to feed 2 or 3 times a day and feed by weight.

If you have to make a quick switch, I would just watch for loose poop or diarrhea, and maybe get some grass pellets to add to his diet to help him adjust. Another help to tone down the switch to a richer diet would be to soak beet pulp pellets and supplement with that too.
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post #9 of 9 Old 02-08-2013, 01:55 PM
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Could you travel a bit to pick up hay somewhere else? If all you're finding is alfalfa I'm assuming you're in eastern WA- You should be able to pick up some cheaper grass hay in western WA or Oregon. I see several ads on the Portland area Craigslist advertising grass hay for $3-6/bale.
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