Friday, July 20, 2012

Straight Alfalfa Diet Okay?


Daniel62 wrote about feeding horse, ”I saw your videos on feeding horses, and am still confused. Is it okay to feed only alfalfa to my horse? Will I need to use other supplements?”

Alfalfa is common and available, and most people in non-pasture situations feed it for the convenience. Some people who have their horses on pasture, which is usually grass or grass mixes providing 10 to 14% protein, will also supplement with alfalfa, usually around 18 to 22% protein, so the horses will get a higher concentration of protein and calcium in their daily diet. Most horses don't need such a high level of protein and can do well on a grass hay only diet. However, if you are working your horse quite a bit, then I think added protein to the diet would probably be a good idea.

There are many people feeding a straight alfalfa diet to their horses. I choose to feed a 50-50 mix of alfalfa and grass hay and sometimes that ratio goes to 60-40 alfalfa-grass hay. Some feed a combination of alfalfa and grass, like I do, to better balance the calcium-phosphorous ratio. My priority in feeding alfalfa-grass mix is to reduce the amount of protein the horse is getting and also what I think is, reducing associated gut problems. I think horses on a straight alfalfa diet are more prone to gut problems and colic. I don't think it's a greatly increased chance, but a increased chance nonetheless. Having said that I know many horses on a straight alfalfa diet that do okay, and rarely will you need to supplement with the exception of maybe a salt block.

I just think the more natural you keep your horses, the better they will do. I also feed a small amount of Patriot 14, a 14% pelleted feed from ADM, to my horses but in small amounts. I do this for two reasons,    1 – as a means to introduce supplements, and 2 – to keep them and their guts used to this pelleted feed so when I need to give them more of it, extended rides, packing trips or whatever, I can do so more safely.

I do use supplements. Currently I use hoof supplement on one horse, a joint supplement on another and a periodic Sand Clear supplement regimen on all my horses. Basically, I think the more natural you can keep your horse, the better off he is going to be. And I think that changes in their diet should be made gradually over time in order for the horse and his digestive system to get used to it. You should be monitoring your horse's body condition, performance and tolerance to the feeds and make adjustments slowly.  Good luck and safe journey.

  

2 comments:

  1. My mother-in-law owns several horses and she keeps them on a diet similar to what you suggested of about 50% alfalfa and 50% grass hay. She doesn't typically work her horses too hard so she has found that diet gives the greatest amount of benefits to her horses. It took her several years to figure out the right ratio of what to feed her horses though. http://midwayforage.com/select-way-premium-alfalfa-cubes.html

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  2. My mother-in-law owns several horses and she keeps them on a diet similar to what you suggested of about 50% alfalfa and 50% grass hay. She doesn't typically work her horses too hard so she has found that diet gives the greatest amount of benefits to her horses. It took her several years to figure out the right ratio of what to feed her horses though. http://midwayforage.com/select-way-premium-alfalfa-cubes.html

    ReplyDelete