Feeding Young Horses Alfalfa

Q. I recently started feeding my ulcer-prone performance horse a small portion of alfalfa hay for gut health. I often turn my growing 3-year-old out with him. Is it okay for my youngster to get alfalfa as well?

A. Alfalfa hay, as with any hay, will vary in nutrient content based on many factors: Maturity at cutting, number of cuttings, and storage methods, for example.

I would suggest getting your hay analyzed for nutrient content so that you have an idea of what nutrients it is providing. If you purchase this at a local hay dealer, they may be able to provide you with the analysis, or at least give you an idea of when and how the hay was processed.

On average, alfalfa hay is typically higher in calories, protein and calcium versus a grass hay type. Therefore, depending on the amount of alfalfa hay consumed and the rest of your horse's diet (grain, other forage), you may need to adjust your horse's diet to make sure the proper balance of calories, protein, and minerals are being met.

About the Author

Kristen M. Janicki, MS, PAS

Kristen M. Janicki, a lifelong horsewoman, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying under Dr. Laurie Lawrence in the area of Equine Nutrition. Kristen began her current position as a performance horse nutritionist for Mars Horsecare, US, Inc., and Buckeye Nutrition, in 2010. Her job entails evaluating and improving the performance of the sport horse through proper nutrition.

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