diet of alfalfa hay only??? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 09-07-2015, 02:18 AM Thread Starter
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diet of alfalfa hay only???

New horse was fed alfalfa hay only for past 5 yrs.. My trainer says all alfalfa is high in xxxx? and our goal is to do a gradual switch to timothy.. this horse wont touch any orchard or timothy, but did eat bermuda when offered a bit.. It's a bit distressing to see all the timothy hay uneaten.. Trainer says that if horse gets hungry enough, she'll eat the timothy.. what are the nutritional negatives of eating alfalfa only? ( not concerned about behavior.. she is very calm and sweet)
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post #2 of 7 Old 09-07-2015, 02:47 AM
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My gelding had only ever eaten alfalfa from the time he was a weanling until I moved him to the barn we're at now as an almost-4yo. He has never colicked and has never had ANY health problems, aside from a slight cold last winter that was brought in by a new boarder's horse, but almost the whole barn caught that.

People mostly feed alfalfa in my area because it's the cheapest thing available next to cow hay. Bermuda is the next cheapest and hardly anyone feeds timothy or orchard because of how expensive it is. I've also never met a horse who actually liked timothy. My old gelding's owners insisted he loved it, but I watched him pull it out of his trough and pee on it, then contentedly munch away on his alfalfa and Bermuda.
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post #3 of 7 Old 09-07-2015, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by luke4275 View Post
Trainer says that if horse gets hungry enough, she'll eat the timothy..
Horses like what they know and are used to. Your trainer is right...I've never seen a horse starve them self.

We've only fed timothy in drought years where we had to truck in hay from the north, and our horses LOVED timothy. They love orchard also, but we only feed that to pregnant mares since their normal hay is fescue.

...and our horses have never had alfalfa.
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post #4 of 7 Old 09-07-2015, 04:16 PM
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Our UK horses had never had alfalfa hay until we tried some when we first came here and they turned their noses up at it - it is all about what they're used too
Alfalfa is high in calcium which can cause a phosphorus ratio imbalance - 2:1 is the rule of thumb but alfalfa can be as much as 8:1
Its high in magnesium but if the calcium/magnesium ration is off then that can cause problems
Too much magnesium can also cause enteroliths
Too much calcium can cause kidney stones
The high protein can cause increased ammonia in urine which is also unpleasant in barn kept horses where air flow isn't as good as it might be
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post #5 of 7 Old 09-07-2015, 04:32 PM
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Plenty of horses eat nothing but alfalfa their whole lives and do just fine. It all comes down to what is the most cost-effective option. One hay might be cheaper, but if all they do is pee on it, it's not worthwhile. All grass, all alfalfa, some of one and some of the other. It's all fine unless your horse has a specific medical issue that diet plays into (no fescue for late pregnant mares, etc).
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post #6 of 7 Old 09-07-2015, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Sharpie View Post
Plenty of horses eat nothing but alfalfa their whole lives and do just fine. It all comes down to what is the most cost-effective option. One hay might be cheaper, but if all they do is pee on it, it's not worthwhile. All grass, all alfalfa, some of one and some of the other. It's all fine unless your horse has a specific medical issue that diet plays into (no fescue for late pregnant mares, etc).
Yep. I think that's the point I was trying to make. lol

Right now, my gelding is fed about 3/4 bermuda and 1/4 alfalfa. As winter hits, that will shift to closer to 2/3 bermuda and 1/3 alfalfa.

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post #7 of 7 Old 09-07-2015, 05:21 PM
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same here. other than some of the horses who are easy keepers tending to become too fat, most of the horses at our place are fed straight alfalfa (oh, they do get to graze, too!) and they do fine.
the management has started to buy in some orchard grass to help keep weight down. a mix works really well.
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