Hey, What About Hay...
Alfalfa Hay Facts
Alfalfa is also known as " King of the Roots." The name Alfalfa is Arabic and means "best Fodder". In the UK, South Africa and New Zealand it is known as Lucerne hay.
Alfalfa is the oldest known crop that is grown solely for forage. (Smith el al.,1986. The actual use of Alfalfa predates recorded history. Charred seeds of wild alfalfa have been found in layers of soil dating back to 6000 BC. These charred remains are found in Ancient Persia which is known as present day Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The crop made its way to Europe and specifically to Spain and then traveled to north and south America. When it first came to north America in the 1700's it didn't do well. Then during the Gold Rush it was brought up from south America (from Spain) to California where it adapted better. It then went from California to the Midwest and further east.
How much feed does my horse need?
General rule of thumb, horses need 10 to 12 lbs of great quality hay per feeding. Performance horses, brood mares and foals require higher nutritional needs of 15 to 18lbs per feeding.
It is not a good idea to restrict the hay intake of horses. If horses don't receive enough feed they will often start chewing on other objects such as fences, stalls, or trees. On the other hand if horses with low nutrient needs are given too much feed, too much weight gain will occur and there could be a risk of obesity and Laminitis.
Nutrition Facts from Ph.D. William A. Schurg
"Grass and small grain hays vary greatly in nutritive value and palatability, depending on the variety, where it is grown and stage of maturity when harvested,” says equine nutritionist William A. Schurg, Ph.D., professor and equine specialist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Quality is also an issue when determining which hay to feed your horse, according to Schurg. "Horse owners should find the highest quality hay they can afford to buy within the geographical area they live in,” he says. "Hay will generally make up at least 50 percent of the horse’s daily diet. Horse owners need to make sure the hay is clean, is a desirable stage of maturity, is readily consumed by the horse, and is free of dust, weeds and mold.”
Schurg notes that many owners will find feeding a combination of grass with alfalfa to be the best fit for their horses’ needs. "Keep in mind that roughage is the foundation of a safe and successful feed program,” he says. "Spend time selecting the best forage you can afford to buy.”
Ph.D. William A. Schurg regarding Alfalfa
Schurg points out that healthy horses fed alfalfa hay are not at risk for kidney problems. "I believe that the kidney situation is a long-time wives’ tale that has no merit based on use of alfalfa hay and the healthy horse. I believe that a healthy horse that eats alfalfa hay, has plenty of water to drink and no prior kidney disease is not going to have any problems.
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