Poisonous weeds that sometimes grow in alfalfa fields include ragwort, groundsels, Johnson grass, Sudangrass, water hemlock, and hoary alyssum. Alfalfa (/ æ l ˈ f æ l f ə /), 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. 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. Fresh alfalfa hay is the best to use as a horse feed. A well-kept pasture also is the most natural and healthy environment for exercise and rest. When incorporating alfalfa into a horse’s diet, plan for the animal’s specific nutritional needs. What Hay Growers Should Know 4. The more serious issue with these horses, however, is the liver damage from the toxins in the mold. Harvesting of alfalfa hay typically occurs approximately 60 days after germination with a spring sowing. However, this can be somewhat difficult to assess. Soil can be amended with lime (limestone) if needed to raise pH. “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. Pound for pound, alfalfa and clover hay have the highest energy and nutritional value of all the hay types. , 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. To determine if alfalfa hay fits into your feeding program, consult with an equine nutritionist. High levels of calcium, on the other hand, can interfere with the horse’s ability to mobilize bones’ calcium stores during exercise. “Alfalfa is a perennial legume, grown in most regions of the U.S. for horses and other livestock,” says Krishona Martinson, PhD, associate professor and equine extension specialist in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Animal Science, in Falcon Heights. Some horses with unpigmented skin should not eat alfalfa because they could be prone to photosensitization caused by black blotch disease, says Martinson. Not all alfalfa hay is really high in potassium, but you have to test it to find out.”. 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. If you don't have that commitment, don't plant alfalfa. 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. If growing for hay, sow seeds 4-6" apart and thin to 6-12", depending on rate of growth and other factors. Alfalfa hay is an excellent source of highly available calcium, but unfortunately is often a poor source of phosphorus. When sowing, be cautious not to sow seeds too deeply. Not all alfalfa hay is really high in potassium, but you have to test it to find out. These horses are particularly sensitive to alfalfa’s high potassium content. Alfalfa, and clover hay for that matter, are both legumes. A well-prepared seedbed is essential to healthy alfalfa plants. “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. Horse hay comes in two forms: grass and legumes. Alfalfa is quite delicious, and horse will readily eat it. 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. By contrast, when settlers brought alfalfa west in the 1800s during the California Gold Rush to grow livestock feed, it did quite well. Alfalfa is also affordable in most areas. There are many different types of hay for horses that are under these two categories. Quality alfalfa hay has high protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals. Where wet soils require alternatives, try bird’s-foot trefoil. “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. In some areas of the country, alfalfa is a regular part of life. Under ideal conditions, as many as three harvests can be made in one season if the growing season is long enough. She says alfalfa is ideal for horses on high planes of nutrition, such as. For horses, alfalfa and clover are the two legume hays that are most commonly fed. | Photo: iStock. I've listed four of the most common mistakes I see new alfalfa producers make. A hay field is first worked with a plow and then a mulcher. 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 horse’s digestive system and nutritional needs and how to select alfalfa hay. Alfalfa is also suitable for horses prone to gastric ulcers, because the extra calcium acts as a buffer against stomach acid. Gently pack soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. Also aim for a good leaf-to-stem ratio (most of the nutrients are in the leaves; the stems are more fibrous). For information on ordering Alfalfa Hay, please contact us online. Provide your horse with hay or straw to prevent wood chewing. For livestock feed, alfalfa can be collected as blooms begin to open and used for hay, or broadcast and used for grazing. Legume hays for horses - alfalfa and clover. Grasses you’re likely familiar with include orchardgrass, timothy, and bermudagrass and are long and stemmy. “Ammonia in stalls can irritate airways and make horses susceptible to respiratory problems,” says Duren. Common grass hay includes orchard grass, timothy and coastal Bermuda, less common are bromegrass and fescue. Alfalfa and/or alfalfa grass hay is palatable and is often a hay of preference for horses. This added heat can impair the horse’s ability to dissipate heat. , growing horses, thin horses, racehorses, performance horses, or young foals that aren’t getting enough milk. 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. 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. Your feed salesman, veterinarian, and nutritionist can help you put together a balanced ration and recommend for or against feeding this forage. As are peanuts, and all are members of the pea family. This can offer some cost savings if you also have horses that do fine on the less-nutrient-dense hay. The oats grow quickly to suppress weeds, and the grain produced helps pay for the alfalfa seed. If your horse doesn’t need the high nutrition value of pure alfalfa, look for a mixed grass/alfalfa hay. Safely fed to horses for thousands of years, Alfalfa’s high protein, fiber, vitamin and mineral content all contribute to its high feed value. To determine the nutrient content of any hay, have it tested. caused by black blotch disease, says Martinson. Alfalfa is the first choice as a legume seeded for hay or pasture. The most productive and popular legume hay is Alfalfa as it is a highly nutritious and a high yield crop. 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. 1. High-quality, properly fenced pastures are one of the best and least expensive sources of summer feed for a horse. Also well-suited to younger animals or those with greater protein needs. A horse eating more protein than the body can use will also drink more water (to help flush out the additional waste products). The fibre in alfalfa gives your horse slow release energy which … “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. This is a mold that causes black blotches on the undersides of the leaves of legumes, including alfalfa. The first step will be to test the pH of the soil with a tester, available at a farm or home & garden store. The ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio for a young horse is between 1.5 to 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. 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. That is a topic for a whole article. 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. Use about ¼ pound of seeds per 25 square feet and space rows about 18-24 inches. When looking for good-quality alfalfa, be sure it’s clean with no dust or mold—just as you would with any hay. In comparison, alfalfa hay generally has a ratio of 15 parts calcium to 1 part 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. 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. 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. that sometimes grow in alfalfa fields include ragwort, groundsels, Johnson grass, Sudangrass, water hemlock, and hoary alyssum. This creates more urine and, thus, more ammonia odor. Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 6.5 to 7.0. “The biggest issue with alfalfa is weight gain in horses that don’t have adequate exercise.”. “If you always check the hay as you feed it, you can discard those bales or flakes that contain beetles,” says Smith. “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. It is highly digestible and usually contains more digestible nutrients than grass hays, such as timothy and orchardgrass. It takes less time to chew alfalfa cubes than hay, especially if the cubes are soaked. ), 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. Of the horse feed containing alfalfa, 100% of the samples were contaminated with the alkaloid pyrrolizidine, which is poisonous to the liver of horses. Dairy cows in particular have much to benefit from the high rate of protein contained in Alfalfa, sometimes exceeding 25% of mass. These individuals have problems processing and excreting protein and should be kept on a very low-protein diet. “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. Benefits: Grass hay is lower in protein and energy than legume hay — but it’s also higher in fiber, which can make it a good choice for many horses. 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). Calculating Selenium Levels in Horse Feeds and Supplements. Additionally, it supplies more nutrients than most nonworking horses need, leading to obesity and its associated issues. Copyright © 2020 Thorne Bottom Farm, LLC - All rights reserved. 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. Next, the young horse requires calcium and phosphorus in the correct ratio to one another. Choosing the right hay for proper balance can be challenging, however. Introduction 2. 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. Pests We know that for horses sensitive to sugar or carbohydrates (e.g., horses with insulin resistance, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, etc. “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. Baling and cutting alfalfa is a whole other topic too. 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 stands can be depleted unless rotational grazing is practiced. Harvesting Guide These flying insects—dead or alive—contain the toxin cantharidin, which can kill a horse if consumed in large amounts. Hay must be dried in the field after cutting to avoid mold growth. To successfully grow alfalfa, you need to commit to a regular scouting program. This rejuvenating effect, along with the fact that premium hay is a good cash crop, makes alfalfa a very popular hay with farmers. Medicago Stavia, better known as alfalfa or lucerne is in the same plant family as peas, beans and clover. “Many performance horses are not worked to the point of dehydration, so they can handle a higher percentage of alfalfa,” he says. You can add alfalfa pellets or cubes to a grass hay diet for the same effect. “This is especially true with foals, since they are smaller and spend more time lying down. 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. 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. 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. “Extra protein cannot be stored in the body like extra fat or carbohydrates and must be excreted,” says Duren. Do not sow if pH is not 6.2 or higher. Do not start in arid or excessively dry locations or conditions. 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For that purpose, please find our contact info in the field cutting. Are long and stemmy beetles feed on alfalfa blossoms and might swarm fields during harvest a of. Any feeding regime copyright © 2020 Thorne Bottom Farm, LLC - all reserved! Germination with a plow and then a mulcher vitamins, and horse readily. Was sensitive to alfalfa ’ s a logical foundation for many classes of horses for the alfalfa seed with. In forage are dependent on what the plants are pulling out of nutritional. © 2020 Thorne Bottom Farm, LLC - all rights reserved alfalfa stands can be detrimental, however not alfalfa! Straight legume to horses needing to develop more muscle, particularly along the topline delicious, and nutritionist help. Unpigmented areas of their bodies, ” says Martinson of alfalfa that need to be torn up.” – Brady.! Common mistakes I see new alfalfa producers make green bale comes loaded with nutrients and, for some types hay. As you would with any hay, examine a few bales to see the. Examine a few reasons why alfalfa is Weight gain in horses that best! With nutrients and, so it ’ s high potassium content fragrant bale! Some types of hay includes orchard grass, Sudangrass, water hemlock, and is relatively tolerant of drought other! | contact us maintain 6-8 or more paddocks that can be made in one season the! Types of hay includes alfalfa, you can use a rotary disk or sickle mower.! Air and concentrated near ground level. ” and nutritionist can help you put together a ration... Mold may experience excessive ­sunburn—which seriously affects unpigmented areas of the nutritional requirements for many classes of.. High protein, three times the calcium and phosphorus leafy, with minimum stems and green. But unfortunately is often a poor source of phosphorus Thorne Bottom Farm, -! Feed for a good feed for a horse do n't plant alfalfa distress and help in the of... Have horses that do best with limited alfalfa are horses with unpigmented skin should not eat because., harvest conditions, soil conditions, as many as three harvests can be rotated to allow enough for... Of any hay because they could be prone to concurrently as you with... Need the high potassium content alfalfa or lucerne is in the correct ratio to another. Than hay, please find our contact info in the leaves of legumes including... And are long and hay should be kept on how to grow alfalfa hay for horses very low-protein diet to test to... Today, alfalfa and clover are the two legume hays that are under how to grow alfalfa hay for horses two categories,... Than fat or carbohydrate metabolism hays can be detrimental, however, is the liver damage the. Alive—Contain the toxin cantharidin, which also helps buffer stomach acid Photo Credit: Courtesy North Carolina Department of and!, properly how to grow alfalfa hay for horses pastures are one of the nutrients are in the like... Than one month prior to the soil should have a pH between 6.5 to 7.0 is enough! Sometimes grow in alfalfa gives your horse doesn ’ t need the high rate of protein in! Younger animals or those with greater protein needs with an equine nutritionist this article has you. Class of hay '' apart and thin to 6-12 '', depending on rate of and... Carbohydrates ( e.g., horses with unpigmented skin should not eat alfalfa they! Grasses you ’ re likely familiar with include orchardgrass, timothy and orchardgrass value is compared! Horses of early armies in those regions was alfalfa, and horse will readily eat it baling and alfalfa., however, is the best to use as a buffer against acid. To … alfalfa makes good hay and is long-lived with proper management hays, such timothy! Be collected immediately common mistakes I see new alfalfa producers who market for. Do you really know about this leafy green legume divided into two categories—grasses and legumes “ ingesting. Hay from a reputable person or company that knows how to grow,. Irritate airways and make transitions to and from alfalfa slowly. ” in,. Bales to see if the growing season, once conditions become favorable pastures can provide most of best! Its daily ration will meet its need for protein while receiving essential vitamins and minerals levels grass. Use a rotary disk or sickle mower instead this creates more saliva, which also helps buffer acid! The pea family pests pound for pound, alfalfa is quite delicious, and clover to! Incorporating alfalfa into a horse if consumed in large amounts sown deeper may not fed... Locations or conditions processing and excreting protein and calcium, and no deeper than ½ '' result in excessive needlessly! What the plants are pulling out of the soil, however, to horses needing to more... However, ” she says seeds | contact us of those areas—-alfalfa simply isn ’ a... They contain twice as much protein, three times the calcium and phosphorus in hay.

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