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how to grow alfalfa hay for horses

types of hay for horses – Legume Hay. Alfalfa hay is an excellent source of highly available calcium, but unfortunately is often a poor source of phosphorus. To successfully grow alfalfa, you need to commit to a regular scouting program. Early farmers discovered its nutritional benefits, especially for hard-working horses, says Ray Smith, PhD, forage extension -specialist at the University of Kentucky (UK), in Lexington. Hay moisture meters can be purchased to give you an accurate measurement. For larger crops, you can use a rotary disk or sickle mower instead. Most Popular. “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. Gently pack soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. The traditional recommendation on harvesting alfalfa hay is to collect once 1 in every 10 blossoms has opened. This creates more urine and, thus, more ammonia odor. The two main types of hay for horses are grass hay and legume hay. Other horses that do best with limited alfalfa are horses with the genetic muscle disease hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP). 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. Protein metabolism creates more heat than fat or carbohydrate metabolism. 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. And, so, that fragrant green bale comes loaded with nutrients and, for some horse owners, a multitude of misconceptions. A well-kept pasture also is the most natural and healthy environment for exercise and rest. If growing for hay, sow seeds 4-6" apart and thin to 6-12", depending on rate of growth and other factors. Fresh alfalfa hay is the best to use as a horse feed. When purchasing hay, examine a few bales to see if the alfalfa has blooms. Producing blossoms is very energy intensive, and waiting too long can result in excessive energy needlessly going into this process from the plant. If sowing in fall, do not sow later than one month prior to the first average frost of the fall. Such grains deplete the soil of its nitrogen and legume hays, such as alfalfa, add necessary nitrogen back to the soil. Myth: Alfalfa cannot be fed to HYPP horses because of the high potassium. When looking for good-quality alfalfa, be sure it’s clean with no dust or mold—just as you would with any hay. Once established, alfalfa is hardy and will grow with relative ease. They contain twice as much protein, three times the calcium and have the highest vitamin content. Depending on the size of your harvest, chop the grass or alfalfa about 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) from the roots. After the first collection, it will typically require 25-30 more days of growth before the second (or subsequent) collections. Some horses with unpigmented skin should not eat alfalfa because they could be prone to. Additionally, it supplies more nutrients than most nonworking horses need, leading to obesity and its associated issues. 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. Horses require trace minerals to combat skeletal distress and help in the bone development of young growing horses. Medicago Stavia, better known as alfalfa or lucerne is in the same plant family as peas, beans and clover. 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. 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. Some horses with unpigmented skin should not eat alfalfa because they could be prone to photosensitization caused by black blotch disease, says Martinson. This can offer some cost savings if you also have horses that do fine on the less-nutrient-dense hay. For livestock feed, alfalfa can be collected as blooms begin to open and used for hay, or broadcast and used for grazing. The fibre in alfalfa gives your horse slow release energy which … Quality alfalfa hay has high protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals. We know that for horses sensitive to sugar or carbohydrates (e.g., horses with insulin resistance, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, etc. Seeds should be sown at a depth of approximately ¼", and no deeper than ½". Harvesting Guide If used to appropriately balance a diet, it can be useful in alfalfa. “These beetles tend to be more prevalent in late summer,” says Ray Smith, PhD, forage extension specialist at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. Hay must be dried in the field after cutting to avoid mold growth. “If you always check the hay as you feed it, you can discard those bales or flakes that contain beetles,” says Smith. It is highly digestible and usually contains more digestible nutrients than grass hays, such as timothy and orchardgrass. This is a mold that causes black blotches on the undersides of the leaves of legumes, including alfalfa. A hay field is first worked with a plow and then a mulcher. Dairy cows in particular have much to benefit from the high rate of protein contained in Alfalfa, sometimes exceeding 25% of mass. You should begin to … Like most seeds, they require warmth and plenty of water to germinate. Choosing the right hay for proper balance can be challenging, however. The most productive and popular legume hay is Alfalfa as it is a highly nutritious and a high yield crop. Of the horse feed containing alfalfa, 100% of the samples were contaminated with the alkaloid pyrrolizidine, which is poisonous to the liver of horses. caused by black blotch disease, says Martinson. It is used for grazing, hay, and silage, as well as a green manure and cover crop.The name alfalfa is used in North America. However, this can be somewhat difficult to assess. Dave Kraeer adds, “We always plant a mix of timothy and alfalfa new seedings with oats as a nurse crop. It takes less time to chew alfalfa cubes than hay, especially if the cubes are soaked. To determine if alfalfa hay fits into your feeding program, consult with an equine nutritionist. For information on ordering Alfalfa Hay, please contact us online. While feeding extra protein is wasteful, a high-protein diet in itself does not hurt a healthy horse. 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 High-quality, properly fenced pastures are one of the best and least expensive sources of summer feed for a horse. Alfalfa is quite delicious, and horse will readily eat it. There are many different types of hay for horses that are under these two categories. Duren also doesn’t recommend feeding straight alfalfa to endurance horses due to its protein and calcium content. Alfalfa makes good hay and is long-lived with proper management. Some grass hays are also too high in sugar for these horses, and this is where a legume diet or mixed legume/grass diet can help lower total sugar intake. When Alfalfa is fed to horses along with a diet of Timothy hay, they will receive many of the nutrients required and all of the fiber needed to build the base of a strong nutritional program. It can survive with moderate water and sunlight, and is relatively tolerant of drought and other conditions. The first step will be to test the pH of the soil with a tester, available at a farm or home & garden store. To steer clear of these, buy hay from a reputable person or company that knows how to grow alfalfa weed-free. The more serious issue with these horses, however, is the liver damage from the toxins in the mold. Owners might also offer the legume to horses needing to develop more muscle, particularly along the topline. A horse eating more protein than the body can use will also drink more water (to help flush out the additional waste products). Do not start in arid or excessively dry locations or conditions. What the Horse Owner Needs to Know 5. “It can also be beneficial to horses with muscle problems that are prone to ­tying-up (due to their increased protein needs) or horses with. Soil can be amended with lime (limestone) if needed to raise pH. We will explore all the types of hay that are commonly fed to horses. What Hay Growers Should Know 4. Alfalfa can be started at any point during the growing season, once conditions become favorable. Putting Weight on a Skinny Horse … Since alfalfa roots quickly, it doesn’t require deep planting—only about a half inch deep. Also aim for a good leaf-to-stem ratio (most of the nutrients are in the leaves; the stems are more fibrous). “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. The simple act of chewing creates more saliva, which also helps buffer stomach acid, says Lea. Not all alfalfa hay is really high in potassium, but you have to test it to find out.”. 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. Productive, well-managed pastures can provide most of the feed requirements of horses for the least cost. Forage for horses can be divided into two categories—grasses and legumes. Binomial Name: Medicago sativa “The biggest issue with alfalfa is weight gain in horses that don’t have adequate exercise.”. “Ammonia in stalls can irritate airways and make horses susceptible to respiratory problems,” says Duren. A well-prepared seedbed is essential to healthy alfalfa plants. As are peanuts, and all are members of the pea family. The ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio for a young horse is between 1.5 to 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. Where wet soils require alternatives, try bird’s-foot trefoil. Horses evolved as a grazing animal, which means that they are meant to nibble on small amounts of food over the course of an entire day, and most of this food should be in the form of roughage, or hay. , growing horses, thin horses, racehorses, performance horses, or young foals that aren’t getting enough milk. ), 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. High levels of calcium, on the other hand, can interfere with the horse’s ability to mobilize bones’ calcium stores during exercise. “It can also be beneficial to horses with muscle problems that are prone to ­tying-up (due to their increased protein needs) or horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) due to the lower amount of nonstructural carbohydrates,” says Martinson. It was one of the first domesticated forages, planted and harvested in what is now Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan several thousand years ago. In some areas of the country, alfalfa is a regular part of life. HARVESTING Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 6.5 to 7.0. “The main feed for horses of early armies in those regions was alfalfa,” he says. Calcium is another important nutrient for bone development. “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. Not all alfalfa hay is really high in potassium, but you have to test it to find out. If you don't have that commitment, don't plant alfalfa. I've listed four of the most common mistakes I see new alfalfa producers make. To determine the nutrient content of any hay, have it tested. To steer clear of these, buy hay from a reputable person or company that knows how to grow alfalfa weed-free. If I had a horse that was sensitive to potassium, rather than exclude alfalfa per se, I would have the hay analyzed. A horse fed Alfalfa as part of its daily ration will meet its need for protein while receiving essential vitamins and minerals. Fact: Grass hays can be high in potassium too. Used to appropriately balance a diet, plan for the same effect enough milk adequate! ” says Martinson calcium acts as a nurse crop it ’ s high potassium content but unfortunately is a., plan for the animal ’ s specific nutritional needs enough milk undersides of the feed requirements horses! Same stage of maturity once 1 in every 10 blossoms has opened ratio!, less common are bromegrass and fescue nutritional needs issue with these are! Makes good hay and is long-lived with proper management the nutritional requirements many! 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