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East Coast vs. West Coast/SW Hay Feeding Practices

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  • East Coast vs. West Coast/SW Hay Feeding Practices

    I moved from the East Coast to Tucson, AZ a couple of years ago. I was so surprised at the differences in hay feeding.

    Here in AZ, almost everyone feeds alfalfa as the primary hay. I always thought that was a no-no because it is so rich. We did use it to help put on weight back East. In the Northeast we fed an orchard mix or a T&A primarily and supplemented with alfalfa flakes or cubes. In the Southeast, most people fed coastal (unless you could afford to buy shipped in timothy mix or orchard) and supplemented with alfalfa. I know some people don't like coastal because of colicking issues, but I never had a problem with it. We were careful with amounts of alfalfa because is (supposedly) could make a hot horse hotter. I had an OTTB so this was a concern for me. Fortunately I was able to board - most of the time - somewhere with turnout. It wasn't always grass, but for a good time while I was in Georgia I did have grass. Because of amount of land issues, in Connecticut it was mostly smaller paddocks, some with nibbles of grass. In Pennsylvania it was heaven on Earth.

    Here in Tucson we don't have grass unless you can afford to irrigate. It is also the practice to have stalls with pipe pens (ie - 12x24' for instance), which is great, but it takes the place of turnout. I love having a run ... had one in Georgia, but if I tried to ride my TB on pure alfalfa and no turnout? God help me, I would've been in the ocean or Florida in minutes.

    Also, some people supplement with hay pellets (like a Bermuda and/or Alfalfa with some molasses ingredients to hold it together) instead of using pelleted or sweet feed type grain. I was surprised how well most horses do keeping their weight on. Still, I somehow feel neglectful not feeding grain. Habit.

    Thank you for your input.
    You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
    -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

  • #2
    Every horse we had when I was growing up (in Tucson) did well on an alfalfa diet, and I've always been told sweet feed makes horses nuts.

    With my first horse, we gave rolled barley to help her flourish, and my last horse it made him nuts so we fed him a pelleted grain specifically made to balance the nutrients in alfalfa here and help horses put on weight (for quarter horse halter horses, but it worked well for him.) We also gave grass hay because we wanted our horses to have food as much of the time as possible.

    All three of our current horses would go NUTS if we just fed them alfalfa. We were boarded and requested mostly grass hay, but they were being fed more alfalfa than we requested, and the Friesian cross especially was nutty with it. I absolutely detest the lack of turnout at most boarding facilities, so we built our own place so the smallest run off a barn stall is 24x80 and the largest is over an acre.

    You'll find a lot of people here don't understand that turnout is good for the horse's body, and that they think the sole purpose for it is grass in other places. If you get the horse out and walk it multiple times a day, maybe, if it's not a high energy horse...

    Edit to add: Horses often flourish on alfalfa here. We discussed it with our vet, and give the two mares a small amount of Strategy (the one balanced for bermuda) even though they both did well on only alfalfa, just in case they were missing any nutrients they could use. I've really never felt that giving alfalfa pellets made much sense, though with prices the way they are now, I know a lot of people are starting to!
    Originally posted by Silverbridge
    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Originally posted by netg View Post
      All three of our current horses would go NUTS if we just fed them alfalfa. We were boarded and requested mostly grass hay, but they were being fed more alfalfa than we requested, and the Friesian cross especially was nutty with it. I absolutely detest the lack of turnout at most boarding facilities, so we built our own place so the smallest run off a barn stall is 24x80 and the largest is over an acre.

      Edit to add: Horses often flourish on alfalfa here. We discussed it with our vet, and give the two mares a small amount of Strategy (the one balanced for bermuda) even though they both did well on only alfalfa, just in case they were missing any nutrients they could use. I've really never felt that giving alfalfa pellets made much sense, though with prices the way they are now, I know a lot of people are starting to!
      What part of town do you live in? Or what part of outside of town?
      You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
      -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

      Comment


      • #4
        CA - "oat and alfalfa hay"

        Growing up in CA, it seemed everyone fed “Oat and Alfalfa hay” usually one feeding of each. They complement each other well as far as calcium / phosphate ratios go.

        Now (still in CA) it seems that “grass hay” is more abundant, and more commonly fed. It is usually orchard grass, and alfalfa still gets fed as a compliment to increase protein etc.

        My current barn (still in CA!) feeds orchard grass, and I supplement with alfalfa pellets (along with rice bran pellets for extra calories, and a vitamin / mineral supplement). No one in the barn gets “grain” but some do get fortified “complete feed” like you mentioned.
        APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          I guess when I wrote "grain" I didn't mean plain oats or corn ... but yes, a "complete" feed. Sorry about the misnomer.
          You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
          -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

          Comment


          • #6
            Oh, and the complete feed I am talking about is a fortified hay pellet! Its grass hay, some other stuff, a little molasses, vits minerals. It can be fed alone ... total diet, but our barn feeds it in addition to hay to some of the oldies.

            No one is getting grain... or other commerical feeds that are not hay based.
            APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Wow!

              That seems out of the norm from every barn I was ever at in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, or Florida, unless the horse was a very easy keeper. I remember some trainers keeping alfalfa cubes on hand, but not pellets. Almost every horse got commercial feed of some sort. My hard keeper TB got enormous amounts of food. All the hay he could eat, plus 1 1/2 - 2 scoops of a Senior Formula or low-starch formula commercial food, plus whatever else I could get him to eat. He was very picky. He'd eat things like rice brain supplement, "sunnyflax," beet pulp or oil in his grain for a couple weeks but then he'd start leaving it. I did self care for a couple of years and I don't even remember any feeding hay pellets. I remember seeing a couple of stacks in feed stores, but not as many types or as popular as here.
              You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
              -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm near Appsolute, and she's right. Only fairly recently have we had any other options but alfalfa and oat. Now it's usually grass hay and alfalfa. I think it always seemed you get more for your dollar (which doesn't go nearly as far here) with alfalfa, and only recently it has changed. It might have something to do with more cows here that we actually feed hay to--I think it's better for milk cows? I think it also has to do with rarely having situations where horses can actually eat in pasture--we don't have too many situations where a horse could get enough to eat.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  When I was in the SE, we bought alfalfa off the truck from Ontario. The driver explained that the price went up the more travel got put on the bales. Makes sense. In the feed stores, the alfalfa is 18 - 20/bale (3-string). I don't know SE prices, but from what I hear, much of the hay here comes from Colorado. How much is hay there? Gosh, I wish I lived in Sonoita where there is grass ...
                  You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
                  -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I moved to CO from VA, where I fed Timothy with a little alfalfa to keep the racehorses regular. Out here, it seems like anybody with hay ground puts it in alfalfa, as there is more margin for profit with it. It all has to be irrigated, so might as well make it worth your while. I have DD's QH mare on brome, with a pound of RB every day.

                    Don't know about small squares, but in CO, you can expect to pay around $300/ton for alfalfa. I heard at the last auction, they had some go for $400/ton.
                    Originally posted by The Saddle
                    Perhaps I need my flocking adjusted.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MrsFitzDarcy&Feliks View Post
                      What part of town do you live in? Or what part of outside of town?
                      Kind of near the airport - an area which used to be a cattle ranch and was divided up into a bunch of horse properties.


                      Also, I reread what I typed earlier... I shouldn't post while eating because I get inaccurate! The two mares were doing well on small amounts of alfalfa and mostly bermuda, not on alfalfa only.
                      Originally posted by Silverbridge
                      If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I grew up on the east coast. My family has long been into dairy and horses. We did not feed our horses alfalfa but there were a few reasons for that. The first and foremost is that our alfalfa was made for the cows and was far too potent for our easy keeping breed (s). We had mostly timothy for grass hay and that is mostly what our horses received. We had a grain mix made, balanced by nutritionists (as we did for our dairy herd) for our easy keeping cream puffs.

                        Fast forward to 12 years living in the Sonoran desert. It was a HUGE admustment. I left 40 acres of pasture for my little muffins to nothing but dry lot turnouts. I have plenty of room for turnouts so my horses still stay out 24/7 and get a decent chance to exercise. Grazing though is unheard of. I realized pretty quickly after shipping in all the hay I had made and then whatever I could get from Canada the first year that I was in Rome and needed to do what the Romans do. You know what? My horses are far healthier for it. I feed mostly bermuda hay with alfalfa added in varying amounts based on need (I have broodmares, FEI level critters and younguns'). I also feed a ration balancer and specific supplements again based on need. While I still yearn for my pastures I have, at least I believe, a far easier time maintaing the appropriate weight and muscle on my Welsh Cobs and have a much smaller risk of metabolic disease issues than what I would have had with them on pasture.
                        Ranch of Last Resort

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm in northern California, and most people seem to feed either a grassy alfalfa blend, or as another poster mentioned, alfalfa at one meal and an oat hay for the other meal. A lot of people also feed orchard grass.

                          I have a gelding that goes insane with alfalfa. Straight alfalfa would also concern me due to enteroliths. I am not a huge fan of oat/3-way hays as they attract mice. So I usually feed orchard at one meal, and meadow grass hay at the other meal when I can find it. I also like timothy when it is available and NOT $25 a bale.

                          I also feed well soaked pelleted alfalfa (just a quart per horse) to disguise supplements and medication. Since it is the only "alfalfa" they get, both horses LOVE it, regardless of what I have hidden in it. I have even been able to give antibiotics this way.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            exvet, Where do you get your bermuda and dare I ask how much it costs these days?

                            With as much alfalfa as we feed, it's no wonder the mare is often "marey." Heh.

                            Originally posted by exvet View Post
                            I grew up on the east coast. My family has long been into dairy and horses. We did not feed our horses alfalfa but there were a few reasons for that. The first and foremost is that our alfalfa was made for the cows and was far too potent for our easy keeping breed (s). We had mostly timothy for grass hay and that is mostly what our horses received. We had a grain mix made, balanced by nutritionists (as we did for our dairy herd) for our easy keeping cream puffs.

                            Fast forward to 12 years living in the Sonoran desert. It was a HUGE admustment. I left 40 acres of pasture for my little muffins to nothing but dry lot turnouts. I have plenty of room for turnouts so my horses still stay out 24/7 and get a decent chance to exercise. Grazing though is unheard of. I realized pretty quickly after shipping in all the hay I had made and then whatever I could get from Canada the first year that I was in Rome and needed to do what the Romans do. You know what? My horses are far healthier for it. I feed mostly bermuda hay with alfalfa added in varying amounts based on need (I have broodmares, FEI level critters and younguns'). I also feed a ration balancer and specific supplements again based on need. While I still yearn for my pastures I have, at least I believe, a far easier time maintaing the appropriate weight and muscle on my Welsh Cobs and have a much smaller risk of metabolic disease issues than what I would have had with them on pasture.
                            You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
                            -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MrsFitzDarcy&Feliks View Post
                              exvet, Where do you get your bermuda and dare I ask how much it costs these days?

                              With as much alfalfa as we feed, it's no wonder the mare is often "marey." Heh.
                              I just got 20 bales of bermuda at $21.05 from Taylor. Ouch! Depending what part of town you're in, pretty much all the feed stores carry it. Arizona Feeds is one of the favorite places for folks to go depending on location, there's OK Feeds in the middle of town... what part of town are you in and some of us from Tucson probably know what's in the area.
                              Originally posted by Silverbridge
                              If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I buy mine from the grower (Laveen/Litchfield area). With shipping/hauling it cost me $16.00/bale about 3 weeks ago.
                                Ranch of Last Resort

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Another CA girl here and it was always alfalfa and oat. This was back in the '70's so options were limited, but the alfalfa could be either hay or pellets, and there was a Carnation Albers product that was sweet feed with some sort of pellets - Round Up or something like that (NO not the herbicide!). And Omolene, or straight grains.
                                  We had large grass-less pastures, or they were stalled 24/7, they could chew on the dried up grass if there was anthing left but the nutrient value was gone, and IIRC the value of turnout was not known, like she said it was assumed the big pasture was for the sake of the grass, not the freedom to move about.
                                  As I recall we did think that alfalfa hay would make horses too hot, but for some reason I could ignore that the bucket full of pellets was also alfalfa.
                                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                  Incredible Invisible

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by exvet View Post
                                    I buy mine from the grower (Laveen/Litchfield area). With shipping/hauling it cost me $16.00/bale about 3 weeks ago.
                                    Thank you so much! Do they haul or do you ...
                                    You hate that, don’t you? Do you like oysters? You have to acquire a taste for oysters and the deep distance.”
                                    -- George H. Morris on learning to love the deep distance

                                    Comment

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