Contributed by: Valerie Mellema, Gray Horse Publishing & Marketing
Driving through New Mexico and Southern Colorado, I’ve been passing truckload after truckload of beautiful alfalfa and wondering if there’s a way I can get and haul some of it back home with me. There’s really not a more beautiful sight to a horse girl than a semi loaded with bright green alfalfa.
There are a lot of misconceptions that surround alfalfa, so many horse owners don’t reap the benefits. Many believe it will make a horse “hot” due to the protein it contains or that it causes diarrhea. Both of these beliefs are incorrect. Alfalfa is an excellent choice for all horses, particularly lactating mares, growing horses, performance horses and even older horses.
Alfalfa is highly digestible when compared to other forages. Because it is a legume, it has the ability to fix nitrogen. This allows the plant to produce a high-protein forage. Alfalfa has higher values of protein, digestible energy and digestible fiber than coastal grasses. Because of its solubility, it’s an ideal forage for those trying to prevent impaction colic, as it absorbs water and keeps fluid in the large intestine. It provides the same effect as feeding a wheat bran mash, but without the risk of causing calcium to phosphorous imbalance.
Higher Calcium Levels
Alfalfa’s high calcium content is perfect for growing horses and performance horses. The calcium helps to reduce the risk of ulcers and other digestive issues. Young horses in training require more calcium than other horses. This is typical because they spend more time in a stall than in a pasture. Standing in a stall can cause demineralization in their bones, but alfalfa helps to prevent this problem.
Easy Feeding Options
Alfalfa is available in a variety of forms. You can buy large bales, standard square bales, cubes and even pellets. Cubes and pellets are perfect for those who travel and want to save space by not hauling around bales of hay. Plus, horses love the taste of alfalfa.
Remember to always look for leafy, green alfalfa with a high leaf to stem ratio. The more leaf you find in your alfalfa, the more your horses will benefit.
Valerie Mellema is the owner of Gray Horse Publishing & Marketing. She has been in the equine industry for over 25 years and is a published author of multiple horse care books. She is also the owner of Mellema Thoroughbreds, a thoroughbred breeding farm. She shows her OTTB, Mistic Gray, in hunter/jumpers.