If the field shows a high frequency of purple blooms, chances are you have waited too long and hay should be collected immediately. Because it’s so nutrient-dense, it is a good feed for underweight horses. Alfalfa can be started at any point during the growing season, once conditions become favorable. Calculating Selenium Levels in Horse Feeds and Supplements. A horse fed Alfalfa as part of its daily ration will meet its need for protein while receiving essential vitamins and minerals. Soil can be amended with lime (limestone) if needed to raise pH. “The biggest issue with alfalfa is weight gain in horses that don’t have adequate exercise.”. Dairy cows in particular have much to benefit from the high rate of protein contained in Alfalfa, sometimes exceeding 25% of mass. “It can make a difference how and where the alfalfa was grown and whether it was fertilized with manure—which really drives the potassium levels higher. However, this can be somewhat difficult to assess. If I had a horse that was sensitive to potassium, rather than exclude alfalfa per se, I would have the hay analyzed. We know that for horses sensitive to sugar or carbohydrates (e.g., horses with insulin resistance, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, etc. If your horse doesn’t need the high nutrition value of pure alfalfa, look for a mixed grass/alfalfa hay. For some types of horses—in either of those areas—-alfalfa simply isn’t a great choice. “The main feed for horses of early armies in those regions was alfalfa,” he says. Horses require trace minerals to combat skeletal distress and help in the bone development of young growing horses. After cutting the hay, gather it in a container for curing later on. Once established, alfalfa is hardy and will grow with relative ease. If used to appropriately balance a diet, it can be useful in alfalfa. This is a mold that causes black blotches on the undersides of the leaves of legumes, including alfalfa. Generally, a mixed grass bale will work best for most horses. The traditional recommendation on harvesting alfalfa hay is to collect once 1 in every 10 blossoms has opened. If growing for hay, sow seeds 4-6" apart and thin to 6-12", depending on rate of growth and other factors. You should begin to â¦ , or an excessive amount of potassium in the blood, which causes their muscles to contract more readily than normal and makes them susceptible to sporadic episodes of muscle tremors or paralysis. A well-prepared seedbed is essential to healthy alfalfa plants. When sowing, be cautious not to sow seeds too deeply. Alfalfa (/ æ l Ë f æ l f É /), also called lucerne and called Medicago sativa in binomial nomenclature, is a perennial flowering plant in the legume family Fabaceae.It is cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. And, so, that fragrant green bale comes loaded with nutrients and, for some horse owners, a multitude of misconceptions. Additionally, it supplies more nutrients than most nonworking horses need, leading to obesity and its associated issues. Maturity, harvest conditions, soil conditions, and more can affect protein, energy, and mineral levels, says Smith. Alfalfa stands can be depleted unless rotational grazing is practiced. Not all alfalfa hay is really high in potassium, but you have to test it to find out. Alfalfa will take better in the presence of high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. What Hay Growers Should Know 4. This can offer some cost savings if you also have horses that do fine on the less-nutrient-dense hay. They contain twice as much protein, three times the calcium and have the highest vitamin content. “Horses ingesting this mold may experience excessive sunburn—which seriously affects unpigmented areas of their bodies,” she says. “A lot of horse owners are intimidated by alfalfa and think they shouldn’t feed it, but it is a great feed for horses,” says Martinson. When incorporating alfalfa into a horse’s diet, plan for the animal’s specific nutritional needs. You can add alfalfa pellets or cubes to a grass hay diet for the same effect. These horses are particularly sensitive to alfalfa’s high potassium content. There are cereal grain hays too, such as oat or barley hay, which are different nutritionally than typical grass hays, but they also fall under the grass hay category. Seeds should be sown at a depth of approximately ¼", and no deeper than ½". By contrast, when settlers brought alfalfa west in the 1800s during the California Gold Rush to grow livestock feed, it did quite well. You might offer performance horses alfalfa an hour or two before work or competition, during which acid can splash up into the nonglandular part of the stomach (where the cells of the lining do not produce protective mucus). There are many different types of hay for horses that are under these two categories. Fresh alfalfa hay is the best to use as a horse feed. As always, consult an animal feed expert, veterinarian, or other qualified professional before initiating any feeding regime. If sowing in fall, do not sow later than one month prior to the first average frost of the fall. Alfalfa is quite delicious, and horse will readily eat it. I've listed four of the most common mistakes I see new alfalfa producers make. Blister beetles feed on alfalfa blossoms and might swarm fields during harvest. “(It) does have more energy compared to grass hay of similar maturity, so perhaps a horse eating a lot of alfalfa in the absence of exercise may have more energy,” she says. Horse hay comes in two forms: grass and legumes. Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 6.5 to 7.0. , growing horses, thin horses, racehorses, performance horses, or young foals that aren’t getting enough milk. Forage legumes, such as clover and alfalfa, are members of the pea family and, so, are cousins of peanuts and garbanzo beans. Baling and cutting alfalfa is a whole other topic too. “Alfalfa producers who market hay for horses are aware of the issue of blister beetles,” he says. Duren also doesn’t recommend feeding straight alfalfa to endurance horses due to its protein and calcium content. Seeds sown deeper may not be able to break through the surface of the soil. | Photo: iStock. You might offer performance horses alfalfa an hour or two before work or competition, during which acid can splash up into the nonglandular part of the stomach (where the cells of the lining do not produce protective mucus). Introduction 2. ), building a diet on a good foundation of forage is especially important—the oats, corn, and barley that make up many feeds are 55-75% carbohydrate. A horse eating more protein than the body can use will also drink more water (to help flush out the additional waste products). A hay field is first worked with a plow and then a mulcher. “With growing horses, however, use caution in amount fed, simply so they don’t grow too quickly or get too big too fast and become at risk for, Alfalfa is also suitable for horses prone to. Endurance athletes can benefit from small amounts of alfalfa, just like any other performance horse, says Duren, but make sure it’s not their sole forage source. Alfalfa is the first choice as a legume seeded for hay or pasture. Cut the grass or alfalfa using a scythe or shears. Especially for growing, pregnant, high-performance, or lactating horses, alfalfa can provide plenty of this nutrient to allow the horse to grow, develop muscle tone, and repair tissues damaged by hard work. These flying insects—dead or alive—contain the toxin cantharidin, which can kill a horse if consumed in large amounts. This should be done 6 months or more prior to the expected planting date to ensure that added amendments have significant time to react with soil. When Alfalfa is fed to horses along with a diet of Timothy hay, they will receive many of the nutrients required and all of the fiber needed to build the base of a strong nutritional program. Try keeping the hay or pasture mixture about 50-50 grass and legume to avoid feeding too much straight legume to horses. The two main types of hay for horses are grass hay and legume hay. It can be detrimental, however, to horses with impaired kidneys or liver. For instance, a horse that’s overweight and insulin resistant needs a lower-sugar hay (the alfalfa), says Martinson, but not the additional calories, “So we often end up doing a mix where those horses receive some legume and search for a low-sugar grass hay to mix with it.”. To determine the nutrient content of any hay, have it tested. The oats grow quickly to suppress weeds, and the grain produced helps pay for the alfalfa seed. âAlfalfa producers who market hay for horses are aware of the issue of blister beetles,â he says. This added heat can impair the horse’s ability to dissipate heat. The ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio for a young horse is between 1.5 to 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. “Owners just need to manage the diet carefully … and make transitions to and from alfalfa slowly.”. Binomial Name: Medicago sativa Legume hays for horses - alfalfa and clover. Alfalfa hay, sometimes called lucerne hay, is the most popular legume hay fed to horses in the U.S., while timothy and orchard are popular grass hay choices. Commonly fed legume hays are Alfalfa and clover. When purchasing hay, examine a few bales to see if the alfalfa has blooms. I may have set a record for using the phrase, "If you can't do this or that, don't plant alfalfa," in a 600-word article. “By the late 1800s and early 1900s we began to learn more about adding lime to low-pH soils, to make them more appropriate for growing alfalfa. Use about ¼ pound of seeds per 25 square feet and space rows about 18-24 inches. Gently pack soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. So feed overweight horses or easy keepers just as you would the sugar- or carb-sensitive ones—offer them a mature grass hay with lower caloric content over a rich legume. That is a topic for a whole article. Since alfalfa roots quickly, it doesnât require deep plantingâonly about a half inch deep. Even after you’ve selected good hay, it pays to check it for dust, mold, weeds, foreign objects, blister beetles, and dead animals as you feed it. For livestock feed, alfalfa can be collected as blooms begin to open and used for hay, or broadcast and used for grazing. “It can also be beneficial to horses with muscle problems that are prone to tying-up (due to their increased protein needs) or horses with. Varieties: High in protein and minerals, Alfalfa hay is a high-energy feed source for cattle, horses and sheep. Other horses that do best with limited alfalfa are horses with the genetic muscle disease. At the same time, pâ¦ For best results, fertilize concurrently as you sow with an organic blend high in phosphorus and potassium. Alfalfa and/or alfalfa grass hay is palatable and is often a hay of preference for horses. If you don't have that commitment, don't plant alfalfa. The last thing you want on an endurance ride where the horse is sweating for long periods is the increased body heat, water needs, and urine production described. Calcium is another important nutrient for bone development. Depending on the size of your harvest, chop the grass or alfalfa about 1â2 inches (2.5â5.1 cm) from the roots. Owners might also offer the legume to horses needing to develop more muscle, particularly along the topline. “It can also be beneficial to horses with muscle problems that are prone to tying-up (due to their increased protein needs) or horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) due to the lower amount of nonstructural carbohydrates,” says Martinson. Dave Kraeer adds, âWe always plant a mix of timothy and alfalfa new seedings with oats as a nurse crop. You may unsubscribe at any moment. Whatever your alfalfa experience, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about this forage, starting with a little bit of history, and clear up any confusion about it. Plant breeding was also beginning by the 1900s, and plant scientists were able to develop alfalfa plants that were better adapted to various soils in the U.S.” Modern plant breeding has also improved this legume’s disease resistance. The most productive and popular legume hay is Alfalfa as it is a highly nutritious and a high yield crop. Molds growing in the bales can cause respiratory tract symptoms, but the same molds can--and do--grow in any type of hay. Also well-suited to younger animals or those with greater protein needs. High levels of calcium, on the other hand, can interfere with the horse’s ability to mobilize bones’ calcium stores during exercise. “Extra protein cannot be stored in the body like extra fat or carbohydrates and must be excreted,” says Duren. Today, alfalfa still grows best in well-drained soils rather than wet soils. Alfalfa andâ¦ For that purpose, please find our contact info in the legal notice. Medicago Stavia, better known as alfalfa or lucerne is in the same plant family as peas, beans and clover. Always follow the recommendations in your state regarding scouting for and controlling blister beetles.”, Some owners believe alfalfa makes horses “hot,” but Martinson says there’s no scientific basis for this. References Years following drought typically see more blister beetles, as do central states such as Kansas and Oklahoma. Common grass hay includes orchard grass, timothy and coastal Bermuda, less common are bromegrass and fescue. These horses are affected by hyperkalemia, or an excessive amount of potassium in the blood, which causes their muscles to contract more readily than normal and makes them susceptible to sporadic episodes of muscle tremors or paralysis. High-quality, properly fenced pastures are one of the best and least expensive sources of summer feed for a horse. Choosing the right hay for proper balance can be challenging, however. Alfalfa is also suitable for horses prone to gastric ulcers, because the extra calcium acts as a buffer against stomach acid. For larger crops, you can use a rotary disk or sickle mower instead. “We see this practice more in the East where a lot of marginal grass hay is fed.”, The three-striped blister beetle is one species attracted to alfalfa blossoms. While feeding extra protein is wasteful, a high-protein diet in itself does not hurt a healthy horse. “Many horse owners buy bales of alfalfa and bales of grass hay and feed several flakes of grass hay and one flake of alfalfa” as needed, says Krista Lea, MS, forage extension specialist and research analyst at UK. It typically contains more digestible energy, more crude protein and calcium, and fewer nonstructural carbohydrates (sugars and starches). The Horse Studio Team and The Merry Band at Catskill Horse hope this article has helped you with your horsesâ hay. âI currently have 30 acres of alfalfa that need to be torn up.â â Brady Smith. It can survive with moderate water and sunlight, and is relatively tolerant of drought and other conditions. Grasses you’re likely familiar with include orchardgrass, timothy, and bermudagrass and are long and stemmy. Forage for horses can be divided into two categories—grasses and legumes. Some grass hays are also too high in sugar for these horses, and this is where a legume diet or mixed legume/grass diet can help lower total sugar intake. He might even suffer from dehydration (due to extra sweating and increased urination from the alfalfa breakdown/flushing from the kidneys) and be more likely to experience heat stress. Some horses with unpigmented skin should not eat alfalfa because they could be prone to. Hay moisture meters can be purchased to give you an accurate measurement. Like most seeds, they require warmth and plenty of water to germinate. In comparison, alfalfa hay generally has a ratio of 15 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. To steer clear of these, buy hay from a reputable person or company that knows how to grow alfalfa weed-free. These individuals have problems processing and excreting protein and should be kept on a very low-protein diet. Harvesting of alfalfa hay typically occurs approximately 60 days after germination with a spring sowing. THREE BENEFITS OF FEEDING ALFALFA TO HORSES: Alfalfa is a high protein forage, so it makes an excellent supplement for horses that are protein deficient or for horses that have higher protein requirements such as senior horses or pregnant or lactating mares. types of hay for horses â Legume Hay. It is highly digestible and usually contains more digestible nutrients than grass hays, such as timothy and orchardgrass. To determine if alfalfa hay fits into your feeding program, consult with an equine nutritionist. caused by black blotch disease, says Martinson. Such grains deplete the soil of its nitrogen and legume hays, such as alfalfa, add necessary nitrogen back to the soil. Do not sow if pH is not 6.2 or higher. “Many performance horses are not worked to the point of dehydration, so they can handle a higher percentage of alfalfa,” he says. Below are a few reasons why alfalfa is still used for horses today. âMany horse owners buy bales of alfalfa and bales of grass hay and feed several flakes of grass hay and one flake of alfalfaâ as needed, says Krista Lea, MS, forage extension specialist and research analyst at UK. For horses, alfalfa and clover are the two legume hays that are most commonly fed. Alfalfa Hay. It was one of the first domesticated forages, planted and harvested in what is now Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan several thousand years ago. Provide it with long-stem hay or straw bedding to chew to keep it â¦ 1. The simple act of chewing creates more saliva, which also helps buffer stomach acid, says Lea. These horses are particularly sensitive to alfalfa’s high potassium content. When looking for good-quality alfalfa, be sure it’s clean with no dust or mold—just as you would with any hay. Next, the young horse requires calcium and phosphorus in the correct ratio to one another. Alfalfa will grow better if started after the last frost of the spring, once established grass stands in other locations start to show steady growth. Protein metabolism creates more heat than fat or carbohydrate metabolism. How much do you really know about this leafy green legume? Producing blossoms is very energy intensive, and waiting too long can result in excessive energy needlessly going into this process from the plant. due to the lower amount of nonstructural carbohydrates,” says Martinson. For small square bales, a moisture content of around 20 percent or less is fine, but for large square and round bales, the moisture content will need to be lowerâas little as 15 percent. “When alfalfa was first brought to the eastern part of the U.S. in the 1700s from Europe, it didn’t survive well—partly because of wetter soils and lower pH,” says Smith. If growing for hay, sow seeds 4-6" apart and thin to 6-12", depending on rate of growth and other factors. In some areas of the country, alfalfa is a regular part of life. For information on ordering Alfalfa Hay, please contact us online. Productive, well-managed pastures can provide most of the feed requirements of horses for the least cost. “I have three horses with three different nutrient requirements, so if I have different kinds of hay I can mix them appropriately for each horse—to get the right balance for what they need,” she says. Good pasture alone is sufficient to meet all of the nutritional requirements for many classes of horses. To steer clear of these, buy hay from a reputable person or company that knows how to grow alfalfa weed-free. As are peanuts, and all are members of the pea family. “The biggest risk might be when someone buys hay from their neighbor who has just started in the hay business (or horse owners put up hay themselves) without looking in the fields at harvest time. The first step will be to test the pH of the soil with a tester, available at a farm or home & garden store. Beetles killed by the haying equipment can end up in the hay. She says alfalfa is ideal for horses on high planes of nutrition, such as lactating broodmares, growing horses, thin horses, racehorses, performance horses, or young foals that aren’t getting enough milk. Good alfalfa hay for horses should be leafy, with minimum stems and bright green in color. The legume class of hay includes alfalfa, clover, and birdsfoot trefoil hay. This can cause horses to become bored and lead to increased wood chewing. Poor quality alfalfa may be used for pellets and any pelleting will destroy much of the whole food value of alfalfa while maintaining the high protein levels. Where wet soils require alternatives, try birdâs-foot trefoil. The fibre in alfalfa gives your horse slow release energy which â¦ Alfalfa is also a popular horse hay since it is widely available. Fact: Grass hays can be high in potassium too. Fact: Alfalfa is no more likely to cause an allergic reaction than any other type of hay. Quality alfalfa hay has high protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals. “The beetles will be very concentrated; if you find one or two you will usually find many.” He adds that 99% of bloomed hay won’t have beetles in it. This rejuvenating effect, along with the fact that premium hay is a good cash crop, makes alfalfa a very popular hay with farmers. Other horses that do best with limited alfalfa are horses with the genetic muscle disease hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP). It’s readily available and commonly fed, so it’s a logical foundation for many horses’ diets. Benefits: Grass hay is lower in protein and energy than legume hay â but itâs also higher in fiber, which can make it a good choice for many horses. A well-kept pasture also is the most natural and healthy environment for exercise and rest. It takes less time to chew alfalfa cubes than hay, especially if the cubes are soaked. Pound for pound, alfalfa and clover hay have the highest energy and nutritional value of all the hay types. Provide your horse with hay or straw to prevent wood chewing. “The biggest benefit of alfalfa for horses is that it tends to be more nutrient-dense than most grasses when harvested at the same stage of maturity,” says Martinson. “Use of alfalfa grew rapidly in the western U.S. as people realized it fit well with that climate” and less-acidic soil types, says Smith. It is generally recommended to create and maintain 6-8 or more paddocks that can be rotated to allow enough time for regrowth between grazings. Some horses with unpigmented skin should not eat alfalfa because they could be prone to photosensitization caused by black blotch disease, says Martinson. Some horse owners and caretakers opt to feed alfalfa, which has lower starch and sugar levels than grass hay. Poisonous weeds that sometimes grow in alfalfa fields include ragwort, groundsels, Johnson grass, Sudangrass, water hemlock, and hoary alyssum. Stephen Duren, PhD, equine nutritionist and founder of Performance Horse Nutrition, in Weiser, Idaho, says this is because alfalfa provides amino acids needed for muscle regeneration. SAVING SEEDS, Become an Affiliate| Private Label Seeds | Contact Us. Putting Weight on a Skinny Horse â¦ Alfalfa Hay for Horses. Safely fed to horses for thousands of years, Alfalfaâs high protein, fiber, vitamin and mineral content all contribute to its high feed value. “Potassium levels in forage are dependent on what the plants are pulling out of the soil, however,” says Duren. “Ammonia in stalls can irritate airways and make horses susceptible to respiratory problems,” says Duren. Also aim for a good leaf-to-stem ratio (most of the nutrients are in the leaves; the stems are more fibrous). Also, we bale the straw for cow bedding. Horses evolved as a grazing animal, which means that they are meant to nibble on small amounts of food over the course of an entire day, and most of this food should be in the form of roughage, or hay. Not all alfalfa hay is really high in potassium, but you have to test it to find out.”. “Horses ingesting this mold may experience excessive sunburn—which seriously affects unpigmented areas of their bodies,” she says. These legumes make a good feed choice for growing foals, pregnant and lactating mares, as they have higher nutritional needs during this period in their lives. Merely sprinkle the seeds evenly onto the soil and cover lightly with dirt. Under ideal conditions, as many as three harvests can be made in one season if the growing season is long enough. In other areas, it is a delicacy of sorts, shipped in from different regions and bought a bale at a time on a vet’s recommendation to help certain horses that need nutritional support. Your feed salesman, veterinarian, and nutritionist can help you put together a balanced ration and recommend for or against feeding this forage. After the first collection, it will typically require 25-30 more days of growth before the second (or subsequent) collections. HARVESTING “The first (and sometimes second) cutting of alfalfa almost never contains blister beetles because it is generally cut and baled ahead of when the adult beetles emerge.”. Alfalfa is a good source of nutrients for sport horses, but owners might want to avoid offering it when horses are working hard in hot weather, says Duren. Of the horse feed containing alfalfa, 100% of the samples were contaminated with the alkaloid pyrrolizidine, which is poisonous to the liver of horses. Most Popular. that sometimes grow in alfalfa fields include ragwort, groundsels, Johnson grass, Sudangrass, water hemlock, and hoary alyssum. , because the extra calcium acts as a buffer against stomach acid. It is used for grazing, hay, and silage, as well as a green manure and cover crop.The name alfalfa is used in North America. value.Well-preserved alfalfa hay should be the foundation of a feeding program for young growing horses, recreational horses, and active horses.This publica-tion describes the horseâs digestive system and nutritional needs and how to select alfalfa hay. Ammonia is heavier than air and concentrated near ground level.”. “In California there are many cutting, reining, and other performance horses that eat a lot of alfalfa hay (due to its wide availability) and balancer pellets, and that’s their entire diet and they do fine.”. Alfalfa, and clover hay for that matter, are both legumes. Alfalfa is also affordable in most areas. She says alfalfa is ideal for horses on high planes of nutrition, such as. Alfalfa is an important component of an active horseâs diet. Alfalfa will grow better if started after the last frost of the spring, once established grass stands in other locations start to show steady growth. This can offer some cost savings if you also have horses that do fine on the less-nutrient-dense hay. Pests When feeding alfalfa, there is a difference between alfalfa cubes, bales and pellets. Adult blister beetles emerge in June (sometimes a little earlier or later depending on the region and climate) to feed on alfalfa blooms. To grow a sound skeleton, young horses first need adequate amounts of both calcium and phosphorus. “These beetles tend to be more prevalent in late summer,” says Ray Smith, PhD, forage extension specialist at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. The simple act of chewing creates more saliva, which also helps buffer stomach acid, says Lea. Early farmers discovered its nutritional benefits, especially for hard-working horses, says Ray Smith, PhD, forage extension -specialist at the University of Kentucky (UK), in Lexington. And from alfalfa or mixed alfalfa the more serious issue with these are... Wet soils in addition, alfalfa and clover are the two legume hays that under. Likely to how to grow alfalfa hay for horses an allergic reaction than any other type of hay horses..., gather it in a container for curing later on fibre in alfalfa clear of these, buy hay a. Long enough I had a horse processing and excreting how to grow alfalfa hay for horses and should be kept a... 50-50 grass and legume hay hurt a healthy horse purchasing hay, have tested! Is first worked with a plow and then a mulcher the legal notice alfalfa make. The same stage of maturity require trace minerals to combat skeletal distress and help in the bone development young. 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