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?

Via e-mail

A.Alfalfa, 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, etc.), you may need to adjust the diet to make sure the proper balance of calories, protein, and minerals—which is important to maintain in young, growing horses—is being achieved.