What is the Nutritional Value of Alfalfa Hay?

Alfalfa Hay

Your horse’s health will be highly dependent upon its diet. To live a long and healthy life, a horse needs a precise combination of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Although it may be easy to assume a horse could simply get the nutrition it needs from grazing in a pasture, the truth is some thought and preparation should go into your horse’s diet. Therefore, horse owners often select the type of grass and hay they will give to their horse, carefully.

One popular type of horse feed is alfalfa hay. This plant is considered a legume with the special ability to extract nitrogen from the surrounding atmosphere and infuse it into available plant protein. Alfalfa can provide 1,800 pounds of protein per year. This makes it a valuable cash crop and an effective type of animal feed.

People choose to feed their horses alfalfa hay because it is a good source of protein-producing a high-energy type of feed. When a feed produces high energy, that means you get more nutrition per pound of feed. This is good for both the animal and the owner, who must budget food costs.

It would help if you kept in mind that a high-energy food source should not be the animal’s only food source. A constant diet of a high-energy food source can cause unwanted weight gain. Talk with your vet about how to balance your horse’s diet effectively.

What Nutrients Are in Alfalfa Hay?

This type of hay provides a heavy mineral and vitamin content per pound, making it a better economic choice. Alfalfa has high levels of the following minerals:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Sulfur
  • Iron
  • Cobalt
  • Zinc

The levels of these minerals present in Alfalfa hay are usually sufficient to meet the mineral requirements for most horses.

Alfalfa also provides the following vitamins:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin D
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin

If your horse has a vitamin deficiency, you will want to talk with your vet about further supplements. Just like with humans, every horse is different, and their health needs can vary. A veterinarian experienced in equine health will be able to advise you on which vitamins and minerals your horse may need to supplement.

When a mare is pregnant, vitamin and mineral needs can also change. Be sure to talk with your vet about changing your mare’s diet during pregnancy to reach optimum levels.

How Much Should You Feed Your Horse?

The amount of feed a horse will need is dependent upon their weight, activity level, age, and any other special circumstances such as pregnancy.

It is often believed that a grown horse would need 12-15 pounds of hay each day. This would average out to about 1.5% to 3% of the body weight of an average 1,000-pound horse. Keep in mind these are only averages. To get an exact amount for your particular horse, you should consult with your equine vet.

It is also important to remember that a horse will need a variety in its diet. It is not necessarily a good idea to only feed a horse one type of grass or hay. Different types of grass and hay provide different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Just as humans should vary the types of food they eat to get a balanced diet, you will also want to vary the types of hay and grass your horse gets to ensure they are also getting a balanced diet.

Always discuss diet with your vet to get the most detailed information about your particular animal.

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