Feeding alfalfa

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trails4jd

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I'm almost 9 months into mini-ownership. When I first got Eddy, I asked the vet about feeding alfalfa and the answer was it's okay but just a handful because they get fat so easily. But I recently read an (old--2012) article from UC Davis that is making me re-think this. Also rethinking for my Quarab who gets 2 pounds a day at the vet's recommendation. Following is a copy and paste from the relevanat section. I'm also attaching the entire article in case anyone is interested. Any opinions on this----or information newer than 2012?

Enteroliths are mineral stones that
form in the colon of horses fed a
diet involving alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay
is rich in magnesium, protein and
phosphorus, and these components
combine as magnesium, ammonium
and phosphate around a central
nidus such as a piece of wire or
foreign material to form a stone.
Arabian horses are the most common
enterolith formers, and Minis are also
at increased risk.
 

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BSharpRanch

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There are a lot of variables.

I've fed alfalfa almost exclusively for 40+ years and have never had any issues.

However I have a friend that had fed alfalfa exclusively to his herd and had 1 mare that would get enteroliths. Just the 1 out of his whole herd. Why? Even his vet didn't know why.
 

chandab

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Fed in moderation mixed with grass forage, alfalfa shouldn't be a problem, and enteroliths shouldn't be likely to occur.
I'm a bit surprised by the comment about phosphorus when alfalfa hay is typically 4-5x more calcium than phosphorus.
For calorie, protein and balancing reasons, it's usually best to keep alfalfa to 20% or less of the forage portion of the diet. In moderation, I wouldn't worry about alfalfa for most equines.
 

trails4jd

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There are a lot of variables.

I've fed alfalfa almost exclusively for 40+ years and have never had any issues.

However I have a friend that had fed alfalfa exclusively to his herd and had 1 mare that would get enteroliths. Just the 1 out of his whole herd. Why? Even his vet didn't know why.
Do you mean that you feed only alfalfa? No other type of hay?
 

Kelly

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My neighbor, the equine vet, only feeds her biggie alfalfa (along with grain and 24 hr turnout on pasture). She doesn’t buy any other hay. My biggie gets 2 pounds of alfalfa pellets, along with 2 huge flakes of alfalfa (each flake is about 4 pounds each), plus whatever alfalfa he eats while visiting the neighbors horse daily for ”Senior” time. He too is turned out on pasture 24/7. He also gets grain, Timothy pellets, and unlimited coastal when he is home at night. What a PIG! LOL LOL Ive noticed with him that the alfalfa definitely makes him feel fuller and more satisfied.

My littles get about 1 pound each (except Thunder ♥️) of alfalfa hay a day. Stormy is the only one right now who gets a little pasture time, 6 hours. Mine also get coastal hay too and a ration balancer.

The difference is… unlike my littles, my biggie knows when to stop eating 🤣🤣🤣
 

Kelly

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I am a fan of alfalfa. I give mine a piece the size of a whisk broom, more or less, every day. I consider it an important forage. I would not feed exclusively however.
A whisk broom?…the size of this one?
A523A007-E2C8-4A47-9ECE-54A3BB8C52BC.jpeg

or this one?

3E15ACE3-4522-4F64-A2FE-6D69FBF90B38.jpeg

🤣🤣🤣


JK 😍😍😍😍💋💋💋💋
It was just too easy Marsha, I couldn’t resist! 😜😜
 
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My neighbor, the equine vet, only feeds her biggie alfalfa (along with grain and 24 hr turnout on pasture). She doesn’t buy any other hay. My biggie gets 2 pounds of alfalfa pellets, along with 2 huge flakes of alfalfa (each flake is about 4 pounds each), plus whatever alfalfa he eats while visiting the neighbors horse daily for ”Senior” time. He too is turned out on pasture 24/7. He also gets grain, Timothy pellets, and unlimited coastal when he is home at night. What a PIG! LOL LOL Ive noticed with him that the alfalfa definitely makes him feel fuller and more satisfied.

My littles get about 1 pound each (except Thunder ♥️) of alfalfa hay a day. Stormy is the only one right now who gets a little pasture time, 6 hours. Mine also get coastal hay too and a ration balancer.

The difference is… unlike my littles, my biggie knows when to stop eating 🤣🤣🤣
Kelly, do yours stay stalled or in a dry lot all day? I have one that is out on grass but an getting a new one that has never been on grass. I don’t know what to do with him. They don’t develop ulcers without any grass turnout?
 

Kelly

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Mine right now are on a dry lot only. I’ve had to move Stormy to the dry lot too, he started to get a little too big for his britches LOL LOL. I’ve tried to put Breezy on grass but he ballons up sooooo fast and then he started to get a little cresty in his neck. 😝 (He also starts to get cresty neck with unlimited hay in nets) I dont stall mine unless the are sick, just the dry lot which is connected to my barn, so they can come and go as they please. The only time mine ever showed signs of ulcers is when I tried feeding a Senior feed to try to get Stormy to gain some weight last year but I discontinued that.

I give hay 3 times a day in the 3/4 inch hole hay nets. They say alfalfa helps with ulcers, so maybe it has or is coating their stomachs IDK? I would prefer if they were on grass but I dont want all the issues that come with fat ponies, so dry lot it is.… plus it is easier to manage their diet and weight.

I give their last feeding of hay at 7pm (1.5 pounds each) then the first feeding of hay in the morning at 7 am. So they go several hours at night without hay. I read somewhere that horses shouldn’t go more than 4 hours without hay, but mine go 5 hours during the day and probably 8-9 hours without hay overnight. Knock on wood but I haven’t had any issues yet. And I’m always open for a new way of doing things, so if anyone has suggestions, please post up 😊 …but I am not getting out of bed at 1am to give hay 🤣🤣

How old is the new one that isn’t on grass? Maybe you could start them slowly on grass and see how things go?
 

Standards Equine

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Alfalfa hay is very good for the ulcery horse. My stallion gets soaked alfalfa pellets in his grain each morning and alfalfa cubes soaked at night. And he has 24-hour hay with a decent alfalfa mix. Can't feed him less to lose weight, his tummy is far too sensitive - fair enough for the dressage horse, so we do everything we can to keep him comfortable without drugs. Alfalfa does a lot to support that.
 

HGFarm

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I'm joining in late on this conversation but wanted to add my experiences. I, and the majority of the Southwest US feeds alfalfa. It's been done for decades- 5 decades now for my own horses over the years. I have never had a horse with a bad reaction to it, or stones. I know one farm over the years (and I am talking big ranch horses, show horses, trail horses, horses used for speed events, mini horses....) who have been involved with Minis since 1982 that had one horse that developed a stone.

My show, driving and breeding stock all get alfalfa. Go to my website and you can see they are all in great shape and weight.

Is it something that you free feed? Absolutely not as horses would be obese doing that, but there are many myths about feeding alfalfa. It is actually stomach soother for those that tend to want to get ulcers. It's great for growing babies, broodmares and maintaining a great topline on a horse without a huge belly. Many grass hays are just lacking terribly in nutrients and things horses need, without adding a ton of supplements to try to make up for it. I have never known folks to have issues with feeding nothing but alfalfa (and our summers can easily be 110 degrees here) and an alfalfa mix with some quality grass hay is wonderful too.
 

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