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Timothy and Alfalfa Hay Blog

    Alfalfa is an Ideal Hay for Horses

    Posted on Oct 25, 2013

    Don’t Believe the Myths – Alfalfa is an Ideal Hay for Horses

    Alfalfa hay is the most important legume forage crop grown in the United States. Alfalfa hay is readily available - it is grown and sold in every state in the U.S. The high feeding value of alfalfa hay makes it an ideal feed for horses and livestock. It also improves the soil and alfalfa sprouts can even be used as a food source for human consumption.

    Normally, alfalfa hay is fed as baled hay. However, it can also be fed as chopped hay, cubes, or pellets. Alfalfa hay is a very digestible feed source that is high in protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. It is clear that the nutritional value of quality alfalfa hay make it a valuable addition to equine diets. And, let’s face it - horses love the taste of alfalfa hay!

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Prebiotics and Probiotics Benefit Equine Gastrointestinal Health

    Posted on Aug 26, 2013

    Horse owners provide their horses all the right things – clean, fresh water, excellent quality forage like alfalfa or timothy hay, and supplements that provide balanced levels of vitamins and minerals. In spite of this exceptional care, sometimes their horses still don’t seem quite right and may actually be suffering from digestive problems. The equine digestive system is particularly sensitive and overall health is directly tied to a properly functioning gastrointestinal tract. Fortunately, many types of nutritional supplements that support digestive function are available to horse owners.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Quality of Forage, Race Horse Hay, Timothy, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Hay for Horses become Nutrients for Crops when Managed Responsibly

    Posted on Apr 26, 2013

    Management Tips for Horse Owners that Can Favorably Affect the Environment

    “Environmental stewardship is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment.”(1) A more sustainable future hinges upon environmental stewardship. There are approximately 4 million horses in the United States (2). Everyone in the horse industry, from single-horse owners to commercial stable managers, face the same environmental challenges that other livestock owners must confront. Since pasture, paddock, and manure management practices directly affect soil and water quality, good environmental stewardship starts with the responsible planning and management of these resources.

    Let’s face it – manure happens! All of that nutritious alfalfa hay or timothy hay that you feed an average 1000-pound horse each year turns into about 8 tons of manure (3). A draft horse will produce twice that amount, while a pony will produce half. Manure, which includes urine, feces, and bedding, can be a valuable commodity if it is used properly. It contains nutrients that plants need to grow, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, over-application of manure to crops results in more nutrients than the plants need. In this case, the extra nutrients can seep into groundwater and contaminate wells or runoff in surface water and pollute streams, rivers, and lakes. In addition, manure may contain parasites or pathogens that may infect horses if they graze pastures where contaminated manure was spread.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Timothy, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Horse Health - Alfalfa Hay quality important to Vitamin A absorption

    Posted on Apr 9, 2013

    Vitamin A and Equine Health

    Is your horse getting enough Vitamin A?  This vitamin is important in vision and in the maintenance of cells that line the reproductive, digestive, and respiratory tracts.  Vitamin A is also important in processes involved in bone remodeling in young, growing horses.  What’s more, Vitamin A is necessary for collagen synthesis and cross-linking, making it a vital component in the development of tendon and ligament strength.  In addition, retinoic acid, an active form of Vitamin A in the body, enhances growth hormone secretion when it interacts with thyroid hormone or glucocorticoids.  Growth hormone is thought to augment wound healing

    Vitamin A does not occur naturally in plant products.  Rather, it occurs as carotenes, which are precursors of Vitamin A that are abundant in nature.  There are more than 600 forms of carotene, but only a few can be converted into Vitamin A.  Most carotenes are converted into Vitamin A in the lining of the horse small intestine, and a smaller percentage is transformed in the liver or in fat tissue.  Beta-carotene (β-carotene) is the most biologically active carotenoid; however, horses are not as efficient in converting carotenes to Vitamin A as are some other animals.  Conversion rate is affected by a horse’s body stores of Vitamin A, level of intake, age, activity level, and air temperature.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Quality of Forage, Timothy, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Alfalfa Hay Supports Healthy Hooves

    Posted on Apr 2, 2013

    No hoof – no horse

    No hoof – no horse is a commonly heard adage for a good reason because a horse’s usability is severely limited when hoof health is poor.   Equine hoof health is directly linked to a horse’s nutritional status. Suboptimal energy intake during periods of malnourishment not only affects all bodily functions, but it also influences normal hoof development. While hoof growth may continue at a normal rate during unfavorable nutritional conditions, hoof quality is severely reduced. Therefore, a balanced diet containing high-quality forage, such as alfalfa or timothy hay, or pasture, and concentrates when necessary, must be fed to provide energy and other nutrients that are required to support a horse’s health and well-being, as well as hoof growth and integrity.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Race Horse Hay, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    How Hay, Grain, and Pasture Can Impact Horse Health

    Posted on Mar 7, 2013

    Looking for Clues about Equine Health

    The bacterial population in the gastrointestinal tracts of animals directly affects energy metabolism, digestive capability, development of the gut immune system, and disease. This is especially true in horses, animals that rely upon bacteria to ferment roughages into useful sources of nutrition. A better understanding of the equine gut microbial population is therefore a key factor in discerning equine nutritional needs and is especially important in comprehending how gut microbes affect equine health.

    The diversity of the microbial population in the horse gastrointestinal system is affected by age, diet, and previous exposure (microbes are introduced into the gut after consumption). Maintenance of the balance of microbial species in the equine gut is important to avoid digestive system upset. This is the main reason why dietary changes should be made slowly. Rapid changes in diet, such as changing from a 100% alfalfa hay diet to a high-grain diet, will often be detrimental to “good” hindgut bacteria and beneficial to “bad” bacteria. In other words, the abrupt increase in starch or nonstructural carbohydrates following over-consumption of grain or lush cool-season grasses, respectively, will induce fermentation that produces lactic acid and gas, which can cause colic and laminitis in horses.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Timothy, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Quality Hay a Remedy for Pica in Horses

    Posted on Feb 25, 2013

    Some Horses Eat the Strangest Things

    Feeding Adequate Amounts of High-Quality Hay Can Help Alleviate Pica in Horses

    Horses with pica have the propensity to lick, mouth, or even eat unusual substances that have little or no nutritional value. Some of the most common forms of pica in horses include ingestion of feces, sand or dirt, chewing and ingesting wood, and mane and tail chewing.

    Why some horses’ exhibit pica is largely unknown. Underlying health problems may precipitate pica in some horses. Pica is commonly thought to be due to nutritional imbalances, such as mineral or vitamin deficiencies. Unless there is adequate evidence for nutritional inadequacies, pica is many times the result of curiosity or boredom. In any case, pica may cause impactions that can lead to colic, prompt the formation of enteroliths (stone-like masses) in the gastrointestinal tract, or even tissue damage by migrating foreign objects.

    Foals commonly exhibit coprophagy, a form of pica where feces are ingested, within a few days after birth. This practice may help colonize a foal’s intestinal tract with the microbial population that will ultimately allow them to exist on a forage-based diet. While coprophagy is normal in foals and young horses, feces consumption is not normally observed in older horses. Providing an older horse with unlimited access to good-quality hay or pasture may eliminate coprophagic behavior.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Quality of Forage, Timothy, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Supplementing Hay with Flaxseed

    Posted on Feb 12, 2013

    Flaxseed Supplementation May Improve Equine Well-Being

    Flax is an oilseed that is commonly grown in the northern Great Plains and Canada (1). It is an annual plant with slender, erect stems with pale blue (or sometimes red) flowers. Fibers from the flax plant have been used for centuries to create linen. Inside the flower is a fruit that contains flax seeds. These tiny seeds are commonly crushed to produce linseed oil, while the remaining flaxseed meal is often used as a protein supplement in livestock diets. Flax is an excellent source of protein, energy, and essential fatty acids (Table 1). In particular, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid, which is converted in the body to the omega-3 fatty acids – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid).

    Equine diets generally contain more than adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, but are limited in omega-3 fatty acids. Both of these essential fatty acids are important components of all cell membranes and can only be obtained through dietary sources (2). Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammatory responses, enhance immune function, and improve fertility (3). The only natural source of omega-3 fatty acids in the equine diet is fresh grass. Therefore, flaxseed is often added to equine diets to boost omega-3 intake. Supplements that contain flaxseed frequently claim to improve skin and hair coat quality, although there is limited scientific evidence to support these declarations. However, researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada found that horses fed ground flaxseed had reduced reaction to an injection of extract from Culicoides, the insect (midges) that causes “sweet itch” in susceptible horses. In addition, results from a study conducted at Michigan State University (4) showed that horses fed omega-3 fatty acids tended to have longer stride lengths at the trot than when they were fed corn oil, suggesting that joint health may have been slightly improved with omega-3 supplementation. Feeding flaxseed may also help prevent sand and impaction colic because of its high fiber content.

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    Topics: Hay for Horses, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Keeping Horses Healthy through the Winter

    Posted on Feb 1, 2013

    Adequate Water Intake and Activity Level Are Key Factors to Reduce the Risk of Winter Colic in Horses

    Colic in horses is brought about by anything that causes abdominal pain. Unfortunately, colic is a relatively common disorder in horses that can be life-threatening and is a condition that all horsemen dread. Many factors cause colic, but winter weather increases the risk of the malady. However, special attention to several important issues can help decrease episodes of colic.

    Feed that becomes impacted in a horse’s colon is one of the most common causes of winter colic. Impactions most likely occur because the horse is not drinking enough water and is not getting enough exercise. The horse may be kept in a stall in the winter, or might not want to walk on slippery ground. When a horse is dehydrated and has low levels of activity, the movement of feed through the large intestine slows down. This allows a longer time for water in the digesta to be absorbed out of colon and into the body. As a result, the manure becomes too hard and dry to pass through the narrow bends of the colon. Gas builds up ahead of the impaction and intestinal contractions collide with the blockage, which causes abdominal pain or colic.

    A horse requires about 10 gallons of water each day. Sometimes it is hard to keep a horse drinking in cold weather. Warm water is consumed most readily when temperatures plummet; however, most barns don’t have warm water. Keeping water ice-free is the next best management practice. Using a heated bucket or putting a heater in a stock tank will help to encourage water intake, provided the water is fresh and clean. If electricity is unavailable to run heaters, allow the horse to drink freely at least twice a day. Placing the water source near to where the horse is fed may also encourage water intake since it is most likely to drink shortly after eating. Adding something sweet, such as molasses or apple juice, to the water may also stimulate water consumption. Mixing an ounce of salt with grain or dissolving salt in water and spraying the solution on hay may also cause a horse to drink more water. Adding water to pellets, wheat bran, beet pulp, or sweet feed is another method to increase water intake.

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    Topics: Hay for Horses, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    When hay alone is not enough to put weight on a skinny horse

    Posted on Jan 9, 2013

    Beet Pulp – an Alternative Dietary Energy Source for Horses

    Horse owners with “hard keepers” are commonly told to add beet pulp to daily rations to put weight onto their skinny horses. Why would feeding beet pulp, an innocuous looking feedstuff, add equine pounds? Wouldn’t a high energy cereal grain mix like COB (corn-oats-barley) be a better choice to improve weight gain in horses?

    Beet pulp is a by-product of the sugar industry and can be found in either shredded or pelleted forms. After the sugar is extracted from beets, the remaining pulp is further pressed and dried for use as animal feed. Nearly all of the sugar is removed during the extraction process and what remains is a highly digestible form of fiber with an energy content between hays and grains (see Table 1).
    Since 30 – 70% of a horse’s daily digestible energy requirements can be met by fiber, beet pulp is an important dietary energy source.

    While the energy content of beet pulp is similar to cereal grains, it is a safer energy source, especially for horses that are sensitive to dietary sugar levels. Because energy is released slowly, beet pulp is often recommended for hot, excitable horses, or horses prone to laminitis. In addition, the high fiber content of beet pulp helps maintain digestive tract health and also reduces the likelihood of grain overload.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Horse Health