Many horse owners have heard that they should not feed straight alfalfa hay. They might be worried about the high protein content of the hay, or they might have heard that it can cause kidney problems.
In reality, the high protein levels don’t affect healthy horses. The body breaks down protein to create calories. That process causes the nitrogen from the protein to be filtered out of the horse’s body.
What is alfalfa?
Alfalfa is a leafy green plant with a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It has long been used as livestock feed and is a common herb in the western United States.
In addition to being a nutritious food, it can also be grown as a cover crop, providing extra nutrients for the soil. This is a great way to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and protect the environment.
It is a good source of dietary fiber and has been shown to help with blood sugar control. This may be particularly helpful for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
However, if you have any health concerns or are taking medication for your heart, liver, or kidneys, talk to your doctor before adding alfalfa to your diet. You should also avoid taking it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as it can cause hormonal changes in the body.
Many people use alfalfa for a wide range of health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to improving sleep. The plant has a variety of phytochemicals, such as saponins and phytic acid, which can be beneficial.
Despite this, more research is needed to determine whether it is safe for everyone to consume. It is important to note that alfalfa contains anti-nutrients, which are substances that can block your body’s ability to absorb certain minerals and nutrients. These anti-nutrients are not bad in and of themselves but should not be taken in high amounts.
Another concern is that some people have reported getting infections from contaminated alfalfa sprouts. This is more likely to occur if you are at a higher risk for infection, such as those who have had a transplant, are on chemo, or have an autoimmune disease.
If you do decide to try fresh alfalfa sprouts, be sure to wash them thoroughly. They may contain bacteria, yeasts, and viruses.
In fact, alfalfa is sometimes associated with food poisoning from Salmonella and E. Coli, so it is important to keep your food clean and dry.
You should also avoid eating alfalfa if you have a kidney or bladder infection because it can make it worse. The alkalizing properties in alfalfa can also lead to indigestion, so it is best to avoid this if you have digestive problems.
How much alfalfa should I feed my horse?
Alfalfa is an excellent calorie and energy source that is a good option for heavy exercise, growing horses, and lactating mares. It also helps to keep a horse healthy by supplying protein and calcium needed for bone growth and muscle regeneration.
Most horses get a majority of their nutrition from hay, which can be 1.5 to 2 percent of body weight. Depending on the quality of the hay, supplemental grain may be added.
If you use high-quality alfalfa, the recommended intake should be 18-20% of the horse’s diet. This amount will vary depending on the needs of the horse, as well as other factors such as season and haylage.
In addition, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in alfalfa should be correctly balanced, as excess phosphorus can lead to bloat and stomach issues. For this reason, it is important to use a ration balancer or mix it with a haylage supplement when a horse is being fed alfalfa.
Another concern is that alfalfa can cause colic in some horses, especially those that are prone to or susceptible to colic. This is due to the increased nutrient density of the alfalfa.
Some horses also develop stones in their GI tract, or enteroliths, after eating a lot of alfalfa. This is due to the higher protein and calcium content in the hay. This condition is more common in younger horses, as they are still growing and developing a strong digestive tract.
A properly balanced diet, a sanitized drinking water supply, and plenty of exercise can help prevent this problem. The risk is also reduced if you feed high-quality, high-fiber grass hay along with the alfalfa.
It is also possible to give alfalfa cubes to your horse without soaking them, although it is a good idea to spray the cubes with water before feeding so that they soften up as the horse chews on them. This helps to make them easier to swallow and reduces the risk of choking.
Some people worry that they may overfeed their horses with alfalfa, and this is a legitimate concern. For example, horses that are insulin resistant should not have too much alfalfa because it can cause excess potassium in the blood. In general, you should not overfeed a horse with any type of forage or grain.
Is alfalfa safe for my horse?
Amongst horse owners, straight alfalfa has a bit of a bad reputation. It’s often blamed for colic and high spirits, and it’s not always the best choice of hay for horses.
One of the reasons this type of hay has a bad name is that it can contain excessive calories. If a horse is not exercising enough, this extra energy can make them hyper, which is not necessarily good for the horse. It also can cause digestive problems if the horse is not eating enough fiber.
But the truth is that if a horse is fed a proportioned amount of alfalfa with well-balanced grass hay, the excess energy will not cause the horse to become too hyper. This is because alfalfa contains a high protein content, which will not affect a healthy horse but can impair the body’s ability to process and eliminate the protein in a horse with kidney or liver problems.
Another reason alfalfa has a bad reputation is that it can contain a lot of potassium, which can cause hyperkalemic periodic paralysis in horses. This condition, also called HYPP, is a muscle spasm disorder that can lead to paralysis in severe cases.
Because of this, Duren recommends that endurance athletes not feed a full diet of straight alfalfa. Mixing in a little alfalfa with their other grass hay for the same benefit is better, but it’s not always possible.
If you decide to use alfalfa in your horse’s diet, it is important to check the hay you buy to ensure no beetles or other insects in it. Blister beetles are the most common type of insect found in alfalfa, and they can cause gastrointestinal irritation or even death in a horse.
Other insects that can be found in alfalfa include aphids, hornworms, and leaf miners. These can cause digestive upset and even poison the horse if they eat too much of them.
The only way to avoid this issue is to ensure you feed your horse well-balanced hay that has no pesticides on it. If you are going to feed your horse a diet that contains alfalfa, it’s best to consult an equine nutritionist or vet to determine how much hay and other supplements are necessary for your horse’s health and fitness.
Is alfalfa good for my horse?
Alfalfa is a leafy green legume that is harvested as a forage crop across the world. It is grown in a variety of soil and moisture conditions and has high nutritional value.
It contains a high level of digestible energy, protein, and minerals. It can help build muscle tone, strengthen the immune system, and provide a boost to your horse’s overall health.
However, being careful about how much alfalfa you feed your horse is important. It can be an expensive supplement, and it must be used with other forage sources to create a balanced diet.
Some horses are sensitive to alfalfa and may experience digestive problems or even colic when fed this forage. In these cases, it is recommended that you consult with your veterinarian before feeding this forage to your horse.
Another potential issue with alfalfa is that it can cause hay stones in your horse’s intestinal tract. Some horses are more prone to this than others, and some types of alfalfa can also be more toxic to certain breeds of horses.
Regardless of the type of hay you choose, be sure to pick out high-quality, clean hay that is green and has no mold or dust in it. This will ensure that your horse is getting the proper amount of nutrients in their hay.
Many factors, including harvest conditions and the hay’s age, determine any hay’s nutrient content. Ensure you have your hay tested to determine its nutrient content before feeding it to your horse.
Some people choose to offer alfalfa hay to their horses, especially performance horses or those that work on a ranch. These horses need more protein and energy in their diet to stay healthy and compete at a higher level.
These horses are under a lot of physical stress, so they need extra nutrients to cope with the work they do. This is why they need to have a diet that can help them recover quickly after exercise.
If you do offer alfalfa grazing to your horse, be aware that it is higher in calories than grass hay, which can lead to weight gain in some horses. It is also a poor choice for horses in poor condition because it will add unnecessary pounds to their frame.