Feeding after Colic Surgery: Alfalfa vs Grass Hay

My horse underwent surgery for an ileal impaction and dislocation. At the time he was turned out in a pasture (grass, but not enough to sustain him) with a round bale. He had been in this situation for 2 years prior with no problem.

I noticed his teeth hadn’t been done in awhile, so I made an appointment for the vet to come out. The day before he was supposed to get his teeth done is when he coliced and had his surgery.

Now we have been bringing him back on alfalfa only. He is almost done his stall rest and will go into a small paddock soon, but I am worried about if/when he will go back into the “big pasture” with the round bale. He would still get alfalfa am and pm with his feed (all the horses have individual feeding pens) but I am worried sick that if he eats that round bale he will run into trouble again.

Vet said it was ok, but I am skeptical. If anyone has any input on this situation I’d greatly appreciate it.

I would never give him Bermuda hay again. I’m guessing it wasn’t timothy or orchard grass. Even if it was a round bale of something other than Bermuda, I’d be sure that he used a nibble net.
If you’re in the south, make changes so he doesn’t have to go out on a round bale at all, feed perennial peanut hay in place of alfalfa as its 1/2 the price down here. Then give timothy with it as he needs it

I probably should have mentioned that. Yes we are in the south and it was bermuda. I am kind of freaking out about it and no one around here seems to get it.

I’m thinking he’ll be in an individual paddock (with alfalfa only, no bermuda hay) until there is a better option. I really hate to keep him from his pasture buddies (where the dreaded round bale is), but what else can I do?! I still have some time until I even have to make that decision, but I’ve been worrying about it.

Thank you for your input- I appreciate it :slight_smile:

I live in Florida and most of our colics are due to fine hay, such as grass hay, coastal hay, and real fine tifton. Alfalfa is good but I would use other hay as well with it.

What other hay would you suggest? I am afraid to feed him anything other than alfalfa, but I also worry about him being on that!

See if you can find some straight Timothy hay or even Orchard Grass, both better than Coastal Bermuda. Sorry you had to learn why many people will NOT feed coastal bermuda, it’s a known fact about the high chance of impaction. Most vets around here warn people feeding it that it’s only a matter of time until they will have a colic from that hay.

Your Barn Owner may require you to pay extra for the better hay as it’s about twice the price of coastal per bale.

My friend’s old off track eventer had colic surgery and our vet said only alfalfa hay from then on. Since the horse was not an easy keeper it worked out well.

My horses have not had colic surgery but the same vet said that timothy hay is good for easy keepers to help prevent colic. So I give mine the timothy.

Anything but coastal bermuda or alicia. Alicia is even finer than coastal. The russell bermuda is better than coastal if you must feed bermuda because of the cost of other hays. Russell is stemmier than coastal.


I think an alfalfa mix may be okay in the future, the idea being something needs to be coarse and clean out those pipes!

Our barn feeds either coastal or alfalfa so if I wanted something different I’d have to ask the barn owner if it was ok and I’m not sure she would want to deal with that.

I’m ok to pay extra for the alfalfa if its what he needs. Since we do not have good pasture, he will only get strategy and alfalfa. I do hand graze him for an hour or so every visit, but I’m not sure that is enough to make a difference.

I have noticed though that his manure is looser since switching to alfalfa. Does it ever get better?

He is also urinating more frequently- which is what I was told would happen, but I’ve noticed that it looks quite cloudy- almost like melted butter (because I’m a creeper and I watch my horse pee to make sure everything is ok).

Has anyone else had this experience?

I think alfalfa is high in calcium. Do you think the frequent urination is removing all the fluids they pumped him full of during surgery? Urine should not be anything but clear. Maybe that warrants some investigating.


He is also urinating more frequently- which is what I was told would happen, but I’ve noticed that it looks quite cloudy- almost like melted butter (because I’m a creeper and I watch my horse pee to make sure everything is ok).

Has anyone else had this experience?[/QUOTE]

Alfalfa is high in calcium, which he is excreting through his urine. It is not uncommon for a horse with a high alfalfa/alfalfa only diet to have milky or cloudy urine.

Ok good to hear. I also wonder about the long term implications of feeding alfalfa as the only hay source. I’d like to “cut” it with a less nutritious hay to keep him busy, but I do not know what kind of hay that could be.

My vet had me do soaked alfalfa in a muck tub with a slow feeder net. So it slowed him down and he could drink the water. Was quite the contraption but they didn’t want him resuming his normal portions quickly. We ate only alfalfa for at least the first month then we added timothy back in. I agree that I would avoid fine hays such as bermuda and look for coarse hay. The water helps to hydrate and gives them something to play in while they’re bored and stall resting. I still use the muck bucket of alfalfa trick at horse shows to help encourage water consumption.