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Anyone feed alfalfa exclusively?

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  • Anyone feed alfalfa exclusively?

    Just got a new horse in and he's a picky eater (assuming ulcers because of other symptoms and will be giving UlcerGuard a try). He's meh about our grass hay and has barely eaten anything since he got here. Tried beet pulp and timothy pellets and he was also meh. Just got back from the feed store with alfalfa pellets and rice bran and hit the jackpot - he gobbled up a bucket (2 lb AP, 1 lb RB) right away.

    I'm thinking of giving straight alfalfa hay a try for him to at least jump-start his appetite and get some weight on him. I'll continue with the RB and add supplements as he'll eat them.

    Does anyone feed this way? Any cons I should know about? When I used to board, many of the barns fed alfalfa cubes exclusively and I didn't like it because of the cubes-only-twice-a-day factor, but I've never done alfalfa hay only...
    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

  • #2
    I have a horse that is meh about grass hay, too. I have fed him straight alfalfa for years--no problem.

    Now that he's older, I have found an alfalfa/bermuda pellet that I soak and serve with BP and he eats them with no problem.


    • #3
      We feed alfalfa to all of ours and have for yrs. mostly becaue we have alot of broodmares and we are trying to stay away from the grassier hay's but they all get it. broodmares, babies, retired's and the regulars...

      twice a day is all they get.... add a flake in the winter one flake maybe in the summer depending on the grass situation...

      i also had a colt that didnt want to eat at all when i first brought him to the farm, he would eat a little and then walk off.... it worried me... after a week or two he suddenly just gobbled it all up like he had never eaten before.... go figure since he hadnt eaten for two weeks basically... never had a problem since.... eats like a hog now...

      maybe your guy just needs to settle in..... did you find out what he was eating before?


      • #4
        West coast alfalfas are assoc'ed with very high levels of alkalizers (sorta like buffers only pH actually increases) and enteroliths are the rare but associated condition there.

        But to anwser your question has anyone ever fed straight alfalfa? Yes I have. It was not that many years ago my herd was very old and rather than pay thru the nose for Sr pellets I opted to keep diary quality alfalfa in front of them 24X7 to keep their weights up during our less than lovely winters. They lived long, healthy and with full and happy tummies!

        Pick a ration balancer or other feed specific to be used with an alfalafa diet and the horse should be fine. And always remember dilution is the solution to pollution. Meaning start adding tiny bits of the other feed "hidden" in the alfalfa pellets and increase slowly with time.


        • #5
          We used to for pretty much all our horses. Alfalfa was common in the part of the midwest where I lived, so all our hay was a heavy alfalfa mix, if not straight alfalfa.


          • #6
            We live in dairy country and many deliveries for our 40+ horse farm are mostly alfalfa. We have learned that if fed with corn, the protein is not too high,and also if a grass hay is offered in another corner the horses balance their ration themselves. Our horses mostly live out and they look amazing in the dead of winter...my show horses are in stalls and they thrive as well.
            "Over the Hill?? What Hill, Where?? I don't remember any hill!!!" Favorite Tee Shirt


            • #7
              Yep - straight alfalfa for my older gelding for at least 2 years now. No issues whatsoever!


              • #8
                Here, for mature horses, we have fed alfalfa only for a good, I would say, 100 years.

                We added oats to broodmares and horses under two and horses in heavier training, the rest all got only alfalfa hay and thrived, if not we would have fed other.
                We probably had a handful of colics in a century and our vets tell us that feeding alfalfa is one reason why.

                Now, all alfalfa hay is not the same, it has to be managed properly.
                You have to feed the right kind for the animals you feed it to.

                We have had horses fed alfalfa only and our native short grass pasture for years, green in the summers, cured dry in the winters, one passed away two summers ago at 30.

                Every time I ask our vets if we should change to big bales of other hay, they say "why change what is working so well, our horses look great, leave it be".

                Now, I have known ONE TB that was truly allergic to alfalfa, got dime sized hives if he was fed any, but he was not here, was somewhere else and no, we would not have fed him any alfalfa, of course.

                I would not get too hung up on what to feed, but feed whatever is available locally that is agreeing with your horse/s.


                • #9
                  Yes, I feed alfalfa to everybody but they're always tbs.


                  • #10
                    I do think that alfalfa is different from region to region.
                    That being said, my TB's get alfalfa. It's being shipped in from Indiana and Ohio.
                    No problems and I noticed that they drink more on alfalfa hay.
                    \"Horses lend us the wings we lack\"


                    • #11
                      I'm in Texas right now for awhile and my hay choices are limited to say the least. I can get decent/good alfalfa and not-so-decent/crappy coastal. That's it. Period.

                      My horses WILL NOT eat the coastal even when I left a flake in the stall for 3 days with nothing else.

                      So, I felt I had no choice, but to feed straight, free-choice alfalfa.

                      They look GREAT and are show horses, so out in public every weekend. Get lots of compliments on how well they look.

                      But, the alfalfa is all they get. I don't feed grain. One gets a handful of a fat supplement for her coat and feet.

                      Been doing this for a few years now and, for me, it's working great (except for the price of the hay).


                      • #12
                        I LOVE alfalfa and would happily feed as much of it to my horse as he'll eat, if I had some straight alfalfa on hand. He loves it and does well on it and I think it keeps his weight up better without feeding him as much grain (he's a furnace and tends to blow use every calorie he gets!). As it is, he gets a mixed hay...and since I'm the one who feeds everyone, I always give him the most alfalfa-y hay I find, day to day

                        But, yes, I have fed straight alfalfa, but only to one horse. He was always a picky eater, then got very sick and spent 2 weeks in the hospital. They found that he ate alfalfa very well, so when he came home, I had my hay guy bring some. For a long time he got nothing but alfalfa and a ration balancer...at some point I added a couple of pounds of a high fat feed when his work load was high. He thrived on it, and actually ate the alfalfa. Before he was sick, he would only pick at and trash the beautiful timothy I gave him.


                        • #13
                          We always fed straight alfalfa to our TB broodmares, weanlings, yearlings and 2 year olds with no problems. Some people said they worried that it would make them "too hot" but we didn't have that problem. We had a large portion of alfalfa mix in the paddocks as well for when they were turned out, but when they were in their stalls they always received straight alfalfa. My horses were always in good health and good flesh.


                          • #14
                            Half our barn gets alfalfa and RB only. Mix of show/pleasure horses. All are fat and healthy.


                            • #15
                              My ottb's get straight alfalfa and do great. I believe it's the best thing you can do both for their gut and their weight. Now my fatties can't come anywhere near the alfalfa but one is a connemara/tb and the other is some sort of mixed breed that both blow up on air. They eat a RB and timothy.