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Horses won't eat alfalfa.

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    Horses won't eat alfalfa.

    I regularly feed my horses alfalfa (big 3 string bales from the same hay dealer I've been buying from for years) and have never had a problem. But over the last 6 months I've bought some that my horses refuse to eat.

    I figured out that it's any alfalfa that has litttle purple flowers in it -- late cutting after the alfalfa has bloomed. Horses won't touch it. Honestly they'd rather starve than eat it. Does anyone know why? Bad taste after it blooms? Or sprayed with a nasty tasting chemical -- drying agent, preservative or something else?

    Since my dealer has many stacks of alfalfa (from different growers) it's been hit or miss choosing alfalfa that doesn't have the flowers in it -- I can't tell until I get home and open a bale. This happened to me yesterday = PIA because I now have to return the unopened bales and exchange for alfalfa from a different grower that hopefully won't have flowers in it.

    I've accumulated quite a few (opened) bales of this inedible alfalfa. So, second question: is there anything I can do to make it edible (so long as its not a chemical spray problem) -- like soaking flakes in water flavored with molasses? Messy undertaking but this hay was expensive.

    I don't think its the blooms in the hay, my horses ate them greedily. Mine would not eat hay sprayed with drying agent, some like it but mine wouldn't touch it, it does have a bitter taste. I would be more suspect of a drying agent then the alfalfa blooms.


      I second the taste of a preservative and not the blooms. Mine hate that taste so I try to ask about that before I buy. Of course if you are buying from a hay dealer that buys from different growers he may not know. Sometimes if the horses figure out there is no alternative they will break down and eat the hay. There was a study done at Cornell ? maybe - comparing consumption of sprayed and non sprayed hay. Early in the study the horses getting the sprayed hay would not eat it. But at the end of the study they had not lost any weight. The conclusion was that after the horses got hungry enough they lowered their standards and decided it tasted ok. It is the pitts though to pay a lot for hay and it goes out with the manure. I have some hay I bought this year that smells great that my horses hate. I can only get one horse to eat it and she has to get really really hungry to eat any.


        If I remember correctly alfalfa is usually cut when it is blooming. I wonder if the individual sellers are doing things differently than before. Either they are spraying the fields for bugs, or using a preservative so it can be baled a bit greener, or maybe they are using a different source of fertilizer ( liquid or spreading manure etc..) and you horses are put off.


          Alfalfa hay is real sketchy this year in Florida. Not sure why, even my best dealer is getting some that's not best quality. Another

          dealer is only carrying that darn dairy hay and full of briars and stickers. Are farmers selling more overseas? It's been months since I've gotten good quality.

          My horses won't touch the hay sprayed w/ preservative. They say it makes good bedding, so they spread it and lay in it.
          "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


            Fertilizing the field with chicken manure will result in hay that horses often will consider to be inedible. The flowers simply mean that it is a bit overmature, which happens if the weather is not cooperating, and the farmer must hold off on cutting the field. BTDT. Alfalfa hay is normally cut just before it flowers, if the weather is cooperating, and for maximum nutrition (not all horses need or want "maximum" nutrition, sometimes lower "nutrition" and higher fiber is better for horses). The presence of the flowers will not bother the horse's opinion on the quality of the hay. Apparently the use of chicken manure is cheaper than buying commercial fertilizer, so that is the lure for farmers to use it. This is the "joy" of buying hay from an unknown source, from a dealer or feed store. You don't know who made it, or how they made it, or whether they CARE about the hay they produce, or whether they know anything about making hay, especially hay for horses.


              Growing which kind of alfalfa is dependent on the region it is grown in.

              Here our neighbor grows beautiful alfalfa that sells for the dairy, feedlot and horse markets.
              He sells to feed stores, veterinary clinics, horse trainers and the general public.

              Each batch is a little different, depending on the time of the year, if it was rained on and how much, etc.

              Since we are in the semi-desert/almost desert, his problem is rarely enough rain to worry with conditioning and drying to bale.
              Here he has to at times add moisture during baling.
              He has a misting system that does that, using only water, not any other.

              Horses like some alfalfa batches more than other, but are not telling us why.
              This year we got in a load from a late first cutting, then later some super beautiful late second cutting.
              We feed one flake of each and horses will bypass the most beautiful looking alfalfa and eat the more plain first, go figure.
              Both were cut just right before flowering start, before stems were too mature and smell to humans just as good.

              One practice that may make a difference, here thrips are a problem, so they have to spray for them some summers, not others.
              Maybe when spraying and waiting to swath and bale the required time, some hay may still have enough residue for horses to prefer other hay with less or none?

              If someone ever figures why a horse likes one and not another flake, growers will be as happy as horse owners.
              They too would want to produce the kind everyone prefers, horses and their humans.

              We never had a horse just not want at all some, just leave it lay there?
              I would not keep feeding that and take it all away, just in case the horse gets hungry enough and it is something wrong with it.
              The feed store should take those bales back, even if opened.
              Then follow up with their source, so they know there is a problem.


                Original Poster

                Next time I go to hay dealer I'm going to ask that they contact those specific growers who cut the exact alfalfa my horses don't like -- and ask them if they are using drying agents, preservatives etc.

                What ever the problem is with the alfalfa it's usually a smell issue not a taste issue = horses take a whiff of it and won't eat it -- they don't take a bite and then decide they don't like it although that has happened on occasion too. Nerve wracking and such a mystery. Hope growers can provide answers. All of the 3 string alfalfa comes from different locations somewhere out west.


                  Feed stores here look at you like you're speaking Greek when you mention preservatives. They deny ANY problems.

                  I keep telling these dealers they're being sold crap alfalfa if horses won't touch it. Something's wrong with it and it's the dealer's

                  responsibility to figure out what is wrong with it. Not the buyer who have to bundle it up and return it to dealer.
                  "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


                    My horses won’t eat hay that has been sprayed with a preservative. Flat out refuse it.
                    "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch


                      That western alfalfa comes off irrigated fields in Nevada. Drying it is not an issue...would be shocked if any drying agent was used? You can smell it,'ll get a vinegary whiff when you open the bale. I've not had any western here with preservative.

                      It may just be more mature than your horses want?