Unlimited access >

Possible Alfalfa Intolerance... Feeding Advice Appreciated!

Rescued a 17 y/o neglected mustang/draft gelding who was just on just a flake of bermuda twice a day and whatever alfalfa scraps his previous feeder threw him. I got him in shape, exercising and on bermuda AM and alfalfa PM. Then I found out he had hind gut ulcers. He has consistent loose stools and we did an ulcer test, The vet (I have since switched) at the time recommended getting him off of rough long stem forage and giving him the ability to eat and digest as he pleases to help heal the ulcers. So we switched him to free choice (24hours) orchard grass in a slow feeder and 5 lbs soaked alfalfa/timothy cubes in PM with one scoop succeed powder supplement, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp flaxseed oil blend on top of soaked cubes. He is eating a lot and keeping weight well, but still has regular diarrhea. The vet that just floated his teeth, liked his current diet and ran the same ulcer test and it came back negative - assuming they healed! Since he still has loose stools, a symptom I assumed was the ulcers, she said sometimes alfalfa causes diarrhea.

We are now weening him off of alfalfa to do a controlled test to see if that is what is causing it. My question is, finally, if I feed him soaked cubes or pellets at night with supplements, what would be the best type to compliment the orchard he eats all day? I am not well versed in hay nutrition and finding a lot of contradicting information online. I am open to changing his free choice hay to something else with less sugar (timothy?) but not sure what would be the best balance of protein, sugar, etc if we decide to keep him off of alfalfa.

I would appreciate all suggestions!! Thank you!

Did the vet take samples of the diarrhea to make sure he is not full of worms or salmonella?

Talk with the vet and ask her what she wants you to try. I would expect him to be fine on only Timothy or only orchard grass while you eliminate the alfalfa to see if it is causing the diarrhea. I would not hesitate to take the horse to a university clinic or a board certified internal medicine vet. Sometimes a specialist can sort out a problem quickly and at a low cost.

1 Like

If you are feeding bermuda, I’m assuming you are in the southern US somewhere and/or that the horse is from somewhere in the south. I would worry about sand long before worrying about the alfalfa. If your vet hasn’t, ask them to either do a fecal float for sand or xray the horse’s abdomen. As AKB said above, a fecal would also be a good idea.

1 Like

From reading your post, it sounds as tho this horse has had loose stools “since you got him”? Is that accurate? Or did the loose stool start at some point after you got him, but has continued in spite of switching hay/feeding regimes?

That’s an important distinction.

Because… Orchard grass can cause loose stools - there are some threads out here talking about it, and we have one horse in my barn who cannot tolerate orchard. He lives on Teff, and a bit of timothy - and even too much timothy will set him off.

Or it may well be the alfalfa. Or it may be none of the above, and something else altogether. Doing a controlled elimination is definitely useful, but it may not be the only thing you need to explore.

Another thought - is it loose stool, or is it excessive fecal water?

I agree with having him tested for any kind of parasite, having the feces tested also. As a rescue, was any bloodwork ever done? How are his kidneys, liver, etc.?

Your last question, about which soaked cubes/pellets to feed to compliment the orchard… how about just plain old beet pulp? I’ve honestly found it to be rather soothing to the digestive tract, and I believe it’s known to help pick up sand.

the deal with Orchard is free fecal water syndrome, which is no simply loose stools. It’s well-formed manure balls, but there is “free fecal water” that comes out either before, with or, most commonly, after it. It’s literally “free floating” water in the hind gut that has not been absorbed, entirely independent of the form of the manure. For some reason, OG does this to some of those FFWS horses. But not all - lots of those FFWS horses aren’t even on Orchard, and of those who are, not all of the resolve by removing it.

As for what type of hay is best - doesn’t matter. Avoid Coastal Bermuda or, if that’s really the only affordable option, at least mix it with another type of hay at much as possible.

What’s the reason for weaning off alfalfa, why not just drop it cold turkey? That would make your test faster

Whatever hay cubes or pellets you can get are fine. Pellets are usually timothy or alfalfa, I think I’ve heard of some OG but not widely available. Cubes are usually alfalfa as well, but Triple Crown has Timothy Balance cubes

Sugar content needs to be determined by testing the hay.

1 Like

I have a horse than has the squirts or diarrhea if he’s fed one bite of orchard grass. According to my vet, this is not all that uncommon. Actually, alfalfa should help with the ulcers.

Yes, vet took sample for ulcers again (negative) and for sand. All clear.

I am not feeding him Bermuda, it is what he was previously fed. Yes, we are located in San Diego. We checked for sand, and it is not the problem. He also gets psyllium husk pellets each month to avoid this problem, because yes it is very sandy here.

I am not sure if he had this issue long, the owner passed and I took ownership of him. I assume he always had it because he did not have a very nutritious diet, no exercise, etc. He has had loose stools as long as I have known.

I did not know this about orchard, switching to teff could be a good experiment if pulling alfalfa from his diet doesn’t do the trick. It is normal stools, just loose and sometimes completely diarrhea. The poop is almost always dark (almost black) on the outside but green on the inside.

My vet suggested bloodwork if the controlled feed changes don’t offer a solution.

Interesting, looks like I will try teff in place of orchard. Thanks all!