im thinking about starting to feed my horses alfalfa hay or timothy hay. ive heard that this gives them more energy and is healthier for them. i work my horses everyday for about 30 minutes-3 hours riding or i lunge them for 10-20 minutes. . do i feed as much as regular hay? what other benefits does it have?thnx!
If that is all that you're using your horses then they are fine with just grass hay. alfalfa is more available in many areas because it grows faster. In my area I feed alfalfa because farmers get 4 crops of alfalfa and 1 or maybe if they are lucky 2 cuttings of grass hay and you never know what type of grass you are actually getting or what the nutrient content is unless you have it tested.
To answer your question, you generally would have to feed less Alflafa opposed to grass hay, as the nutrient content in alfalfa is higher then that of grass hay.
I myself don't like feeding straight alfalfa. I like to do a ratio of 3:1. Meaning that if I feed 3 flakes of hay, 2 will be grass and 1 alfalfa.
Or even better getting a mixed hay of say 20% alfalfa and the other 80% different grass mix such as timothy, brome or other
But this is just me, others will have their own ideas, and preferences
A very nice o/a hay is just about the cat's meow. About 1/3 alfalfa and 2/3 orchard and a 2nd to 4th cutting. Other hays are good, but that makes you slobber!
You're better off feeding free choice quality grass hay, then supplement with some Alfalfa if you need more protein or more calories. I supplement my horses with 1 lb to 3 lbs of Alfalfa pellets or chopped hay. We don't get much baled alfalfa due to Blister Beetles, so I have to go with packaged, processed hay.
I feed straight alfalfa almost all the time because grass hay is outrageously expensive here (I'm in Arizona). I mean, I can be paying $9 for alfalfa, and bermuda, which is about the only grass hay you can get regularly, will probably be about $12-$14 a bale.
Sometimes the feed stores get what they call a grass/alfalfa mix, but almost always it is some mystery grass and there are plastic bottles and cardboard boxes and such baled in with it. I think they are charging you a premium for what has been growing on the edge of the field near the roadway and calling it a grass/alfalfa mix! So, I basically have to feed straight alfalfa unless I get really lucky and find some nice grass hay to feed with it.
I have neighbors that swear it gives their horses too much energy, but I ride my guys regularly and don't notice or mind. I'm really not sure if it gives them more energy or not. I am a big believer in riding my horses, and I notice that horses that don't get ridden regularly have tons of energy no matter what they are fed!
You don't need to feed as much as grass hay. They usually break off in pretty nice flakes and I just feed a flake morning and evening (these are 3-wire bale flakes, not 2-wire bale sized flakes).
A lot of people don't think straight alfalfa is healthy because of the excess protein and calcium, but a lot of us Arizona folks feed nothing but alfalfa year round (because most of us don't have pasture either) and the horses seem to do just fine. In an ideal world, I would feed about 50/50 grass alfalfa.
As for health benefits, I would say less hay-belly because you are feeding less to get the same results, nice hair coat, etc. I think there is also a study that says that the calcium in alfalfa helps keep horses from getting ulcers, or at least buffers the stomach acid a bit.
Potential negatives....I have heard that horses are more likely to get entroliths when fed a straight alfalfa diet. I don't know how much of an increased risk there is though.
I have lost two horses to colic, but they were ages 24 and 26 when they died (not that it makes it any easier to loose them). And they were not necropsyed so I don't know what went wrong with them. So I don't know if they had entroliths or a twisted gut or a bad impaction or some other problem due to their age. They were also Arabians, whom I understand may be at more risk for entroliths.
But I am still very comfortable feeding alfalfa. And if you feed at least 50% grass with it, I really think it will do your horse good and have no ill effects like a straight alfalfa diet may (or may not) have.
I have my horse on part alfafa and part costal bermuda. My vet told me not to put him only alfalfa because of the high caloric content. But he did recommend it for horses that are prone to colic. The alfalfa is soothing to a horse's stomach and intestines. It is also an effective way put some weight on a horse without them gorging.
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If you are on a good grain there is no need for alfalfa. alfalfa is ideal for harder keeping horses. Even my 18 hand hard keeper mare does great on timothy grass 2nd cutting hay. better than she did on the timorthy alfalfa. She gets a lot of grain and beet pulp as well. its all about rationing sometimes too. If you must have alfalfa i reccomend timothy alfalfa. always check it for mold. out here clean alfalfa is very hard to get without it having mold or lots of dust. grass hay is my choice as this is very soft and non dusty.
I heard it can give them kidney stones because of all the protein?
I like either 20/80 or straight grass hay :)
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