One of the most widely discussed topics around horse health is food.

Today, we focus on alfalfa, a nutritional source that often leaves horse owners with questions because there are so many conflicting opinions on when and how to use it and the right amount to feed. 

Join me as we tackle common misconceptions surrounding alfalfa and shed light on the ins and outs of incorporating it into your horse’s diet.

Diverse Uses of Alfalfa

Horse owners can use alfalfa for many different purposes. Some use it to provide extra calories during the winter, while others use it to help their horses gain weight. Some owners like to use alfalfa as a source of energy to enhance a horse’s performance and contribute to muscle building. Others claim that using alfalfa prevents issues like chronic diarrhea and fecal water syndrome in their horses.

The Equine Microbiome

Horses get their energy from fermenting fiber. Alfalfa may help with issues like chronic diarrhea or fecal water syndrome because it impacts the tiny organisms in the microbial populations of the hindgut. I spoke about the equine microbiome in Episode 10, so you can go back and listen to that episode to refresh your memory if you need to.

Toxicity Issues

Diets high in alfalfa can lead to potential feed toxicity issues, like leaky gut, due to the shift in microbial populations and increased body acidity caused by those diets. You need to know the horse’s history and monitor the amount and duration of alfalfa feeding to avoid complications. 

Understanding Alfalfa as a Forage

Contrary to common belief, alfalfa is a legume and is not part of the grass family, a difference that impacts its macronutrient composition. With a protein content ranging from 14 percent to 25 percent, alfalfa can be a valuable supplement for horses. It does contain a high lignin content, making it less digestible and less efficient than grass as an energy source.

Alfalfa as a Protein Supplement

Despite its limitations as an energy source, alfalfa shines as a protein supplement for horses. Horses with protein deficiencies or higher protein requirements, such as young horses, rescue horses, or seniors, can benefit from alfalfa supplementation. For older horses with slower metabolic rates, alfalfa can be particularly helpful in meeting their nutritional needs.

In Conclusion

While alfalfa may have some limitations and not necessarily work as a replacement for grass, it can still be a valuable supplement for horses as it contains essential nutrients, like protein in particular. 

By learning about the role of alfalfa and understanding its benefits, horse owners can make informed decisions on incorporating alfalfa effectively into the diets of their equine companions.

Links and resources:

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Riva’s Remedies: Kidney Care