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alfalfa...how much to feed?
I'm going to start feeding my mare alfalfa, using like an antacid for after she eats. She isn't stalled, has 24/7 good quality pasture, and gets 2 1/2 lbs of Strategy daily. I'm not very familiar with alfalfa and most everything that I read suggests either free feeding (if stalled) or giving a flake following a meal if they have access to grass. I can't get bales of alfalfa where I live, it comes chopped and compressed. I don't know how much alfalfa to feed her...and should I cut her feed back slightly? She's an extremely easy keeper.
I think alfalfa is generally a good feed, if fed as part of a balanced diet. I wouldn't want to feed more than about 1/3 of the ration as alfalfa generally. It's high protein & calcium, among other nutrients, so that needs to be taken into consideration when working out balance. FeedXL.com is one good source for diet & nutritional info.
As it's high energy too, I'd be cautious of feeding it to an 'easy keeper' though. But I wonder why you're feeding her Strategy too, if she's already overweight? I know their ad says "without the added calories that can make easy keepers obese." but that same ad says high fat & I imagine their 'controlled starch & sugar' doesn't mean low, with the 'grain products' and 'molasses products' (along with all the other products and by-products on the ingredients list the company site doesn't provide:?).
Especially if you're worried about ulcers/acidosis, I'd personally scrap the Strategy & avoid starchy & high energy feed. If she's got adequate grass, she may only need a low dose ration balancer or such, but especially if you are giving her starchy feeds, it's important to feed it with lots of fibre - chaff, beet pulp, etc - and feed it little & often, rather than only a couple of larger meals daily.
No, she's not overweight. She's at a good healthy weight now and just the small amount of Strategy alone plus pasture maintains her. She doesn't have ulcers, but she recently began acting funny...just seemed a little distracted and nipping at me when I messed around in her girth area and while riding. This isn't her at all. After discussing things with the vet he believes she is having our equivalent of heartburn and he wanted me to add alfalfa since it acts as a natural antacid and just see how it helps for right now since she's fine otherwise. I questioned her feed and he thought it was fine becasue pelleted feeds are easy on them to digest as they break down quickly in the gut. He told me to add aloe vera juice as well because it soothes the stomach. Everything is just so varying on what to do and I'm so confused.
Hmm, great that you've already had a vet about it & established she doesn't have ulcers. I take it he scoped for them? How much did he say you should feed her? You said 'extremely easy keeper' which to me means overweight, but even if she's not over, she could be, with a sniff of extra high energy feed if she's so easy, so take that into consideration.
Horses produce stomach acid continuously, as they're designed to have food going near constantly through their system. Saliva is a 'buffer', so more chew time with long stemmed fibre is good. Starchy feed is not. It can also cause acidosis if big/infrequent rich feeds hit the hind gut. 'Heartburn' or 'acid reflux' can be precursors for ulcers. I know it's a small amount of Strategy, so may well be fine, but I'd say it's worth considering.
Yes, he did scope her. We discussed lots of things that pertain to her daily activities and he thought her feed was suitable. Saying that, I do know that vets mean well but they don't always know the ins and outs of everything when it comes to nutrition. What you say makes sense, and it does fall in line with other things I've researched about the non starchy feeds. So many things are contradictory though...like seeing feed less starch but pellets are okay...because I did see that on a few sites. I've even seen that feeding rice bran is desireable, but that is very starchy as well.
After talking it out, which is sometimes all I need to do to get my thoughts straight, I think I may just cut out the Strategy all together. It could very well be what's upsetting her belly and it's just now starting to show outwardly. Since she already doesn't need much to keep her weight up, the alfalfa alone could very well be sufficient. I know ulcers can happen quickly and I want to prevent that as much as I can. I just worry so bad about colic and founder. My husband rolls his eyes when I stress over what she eats but he didn't work for a horse vet and see the cases that I did...or see a NSH whose front hooves literally came off because she foundered so bad.
Cinny has Gastric Reflux and we feed pelleted alfalfa for the same reason. He also gets SmartGut every day. Generally if your horse nibbles all day, you don't have to worry as much about an antacid...as long as there is SOMETHING in their tummy it will help. However when you ride their tummies get empty. My vet suggested that THIS is when to give the pelleted alfalfa. We give about a pound just before riding so that the pellets absorb acid and the high calcium acts as an antacid during the ride. He is on free choice round bale brome plus strategy so the ONLY time he gets the alfalfa is just before rides...he's an easy keeper also. I also found that mixing it with rice bran pellets (50/50) also helps.
This web page helped me GREATLY in controlling tummy pain Horse or Equine Stomach and Hind Gut Ulcers
Thank you! That site is very informative.
Yeah, I'd probably be inclined to see how she does on just the grass & a (grain/sugar free)ration balancer or such for her nutrition. I do agree with Cinny's that a probiotic would be a good measure too.
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