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Nutritional value of alfalfa for older horse

i have a retired horse, late 20s, with some metabolic issues and some other problems . At the past barn I was at, all the horses received a flake of alfalfa a day.

My horse really enjoyed that, and I’ll be the first to admit I am no nutritional expert when it comes to forage.

I now buy my own of alfalfa to be provided by my current barn, however, it’s hit and miss whether it is provided to her. She is supposed to get two flakes a day. On the days that I am there, I make sure she gets it, but that’s not every day

my question is, how much is it really helping her/providing a benefit? Is there that much nutritional benefit that she is getting from it?

More calories, more protein, more amino acids, quality alfalfa is very and easily digestible, all things that typically benefit older horses


is there a drawback to a horse getting too much? say, 4 flakes a day? vs like 2?

I feel like to to 30 per cent alfalfa by weight of hay is supposed to be fine. Some horses can’t tolerate that much protein. I knew a horse years ago who broke out in little oozy skin pimples from alfalfa. My current horse got impaction colic from really stemmy alfalfa and not drinking enough in winter. Another horse in the barn was getting free choice alfalfa (owner thought this was risk free because it was “tested low sugar”) and got obese and laminitis. Of course I’ve also seen horses in our barn get obese and founder from free choice low end grass hay. So it’s all down to the individual horse

flakes don’t mean anything. Are they from 40lb bales? 80lb bales? 100lb 3-string bales? We need to talk in terms of pounds, rather than flakes

But, if we’re talking about straight alfalfa, then yes, the drawback is a high calcium:phosphorous ratio. Adults can handle around 5-6:1 as long as there’s enough P, but it’s always better to get closer to 1.5-2:1. Foals need a ratio much closer to 1.5-2:1

then there are the calories. Sometimes all that alf is GREAT to keep concentrates down. Sometimes, it means the horse is restricted so much in forage intake as to be unhealthy from a digestive perspective

Also, terrific for horses with tummy issues. I think that alfalfa is the bomb, as long as your horse’s metabolic issues do not include obesity. I have to beg my hay guy for it-- he really thinks that dairy cows should get all of the great alfalfa!

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