what is the difference between hay and alfalfa

what is the difference between hay and alfalfa

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Best Hay To Feed Your Horse

For those who personal a horse, you’ve most likely found that once you ask totally different folks what’s the greatest hay to feed your horse, you by no means get a easy, normal reply. There are such a lot of varied opinions that folks have about what to feed their horse, when their horse ought to be fed, how a lot they want and the way several types of feed can have an effect on their horse’s conduct and efficiency. You might have already tried to perform a little research on one of the best hay to feed your horse and more than likely the extra you’ve learn, the extra confused you change into!

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One factor we do know is that each horse has totally different dietary necessities, for the reason that age of the horse, the exercise degree, breed and dimension all play necessary roles in deciding which hay greatest suites your horse’s wants. Some horses could require increased protein and extra vitality, whereas others may have hay that’s decrease in protein and isn’t as wealthy. For instance, a retired senior horse that’s turned out in pasture is just not going to have the identical dietary necessities as a high-level efficiency horse throughout present season. So here’s a consolidated overview of among the variations between hays that will help you resolve which is one of the best hay to feed your horse. Nervous Horse? – It might be a dietary deficiency

Totally different Kinds of Hay

There are fairly just a few several types of hay that folks feed to horses, however hay usually falls into considered one of two classes – legumes and grasses. Alfalfa hay, typically referred to as lucerne hay, is the preferred legume hay fed to horses within the U.S., whereas timothy and orchard are fashionable grass hay decisions. There are cereal grain hays too, reminiscent of oat or barley hay, that are totally different nutritionally than typical grass hays, however additionally they fall below the grass hay class. After all, when attempting to pick one of the best hay to feed your horse, geography will play a giant half in your choice. For instance, alfalfa, timothy and orchard grass hays are fashionable in Kentucky, whereas coastal Bermuda grass hay is fashionable in Southern U.S. Right here’s a chart that reveals among the widespread hays which are fed to horses.

Best Hay To Feed Your Horse

The dietary profiles of several types of hay can fluctuate significantly, particularly when measuring fiber, protein content material, digestible vitality and mineral composition. To get began, listed below are some widespread phrases used when evaluating hay:

Moisture: Ideally hay moisture ought to vary between 10% – 17%. Hay that’s below 10% could also be brittle, dry and dusty. Hay that’s over 18% has a excessive danger of creating mould, and hay over 25% could be a potential hearth danger.

Crude Protein (CP): Protein ranges in hay can fluctuate extensively, relying on the kind of hay and when it was harvested. The youthful the hay is when it was lower, the upper the protein degree can be. Protein ranges can vary from 8% to 14% in grass hay, and 15% to 22% in legume (alfalfa) hay. Basically, a rising horse wants between 12% and 18% protein of their weight loss program for correct development and growth, whereas most mature horses will do advantageous on decrease protein hay (10% – 12%). Horses which are in coaching are going to want extra protein to help elevated muscle growth and change nitrogen that’s misplaced throughout train.

Digestible Vitality (DE): Digestible Vitality (DE) is measured in megacalories (Mcal) and most hays sometimes vary from 0.76 to 0.94 Mcal/lb of DE. Every day DE necessities for a median dimension horse can vary anyplace from 20 Mcals/lb (minimal upkeep) to 34.5 Mcals/lb (horses in heavy coaching).

Non-Structural Carbohydrates (NSC): This time period is used to explain the sugar and starch content material in hay. NSC’s are necessary, since these are the carbohydrates which are damaged down and absorbed into the blood stream as glucose. Horses which are insulin resistant are sometimes placed on low NSC “low-carb” diets.

Calcium (Ca) and Phosphorus (P): The balanced ratio between these two minerals, which varies amongst several types of hay, is essential as a result of the 2 work carefully collectively. Ideally, the calcium to phosphorus ratio in horses ought to be between 3:1 to 1:1. In different phrases, a horse wants a minimum of as a lot calcium in his weight loss program as phosphorus, by no means the reverse.

Best Hay To Feed Your Horse terminolgy chart Sweetwater Nutrition Does your horse want Joint Help? So now that you already know among the primary phrases used, listed below are some variations between alfalfa hay and grass hay that may enable you to resolve which is one of the best hay to feed your horse.

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Increased Protein Content material One of many greatest variations between alfalfa hay and grass hay is the protein content material. On common, alfalfa hay has a lot increased ranges of protein, starting from 15% to 21% relying on when the alfalfa was lower. That is a lot increased than the protein ranges of grass hay, which generally comprises 10% or much less protein. Whereas most grownup horses want someplace round 10% to 12% protein of their weight loss program, increased protein is necessary for younger rising horses, working efficiency horses, and for lactating mares. If a horse is fed hay that comprises extra protein than they will make the most of, the surplus can be damaged down and the waste can be eradicated within the urine as urea, which is then transformed to ammonia. For horses saved in stalls, this might be an issue if the stalls should not correctly cleaned and effectively ventilated.

Increased Vitality Content material / Decrease In Fiber The vitality content material can be totally different between alfalfa and grass hays. Alfalfa hay sometimes has extra energy per pound than grass hay, so if you’re feeding your horse alfalfa hay, he could must eat much less hay to keep up his physique weight. This distinction is expounded to the fiber content material of the hay; alfalfa hay is decrease in fiber, whereas grass hay is increased in fiber which permits the horse to eat extra hay with out placing on additional weight. Because of this, many individuals who wish to cut back the calorie consumption of their horse will feed grass hay as a substitute of feeding alfalfa hay.

Increased Calcium Ranges One other main distinction between alfalfa and grass hay is the mineral profile. Alfalfa hay sometimes has increased ranges of calcium when in comparison with the quantity of calcium in grass hay. The phosphorus content material, nevertheless, often is just not that totally different between the 2 hays. And, after all, the mineral content material in all hays will fluctuate relying on the area wherein it was grown in addition to the soil situations.

Alfalfa hay may be very fashionable since it’s available and is fairly priced; it’s the solely forage that’s offered in each state within the U.S. Not solely is alfalfa simple to search out, however horses additionally love the style and nearly at all times choose the style of alfalfa over grass hay. That is particularly useful for exhausting keepers for the reason that candy odor and inexperienced, leafy look of alfalfa hay is tough to withstand.

Horses which have Equine Metabolic Syndrome (insulin resistance) and are liable to laminitis could also be delicate to alfalfa, more than likely as a result of alfalfa has extra sugar and is increased in starch than most grass hays. So in case your horse is insulin resistant and you’re contemplating feeding him alfalfa hay, it will be greatest to debate this feature first along with your vet.

Alfalfa hay evaluation will fluctuate relying on the time of 12 months the alfalfa hay was harvested, the soil situations wherein it was grown, and so forth., however a median alfalfa hay evaluation can be round this vary:

Alfalfa Hay Evaluation (common) Crude Protein – 15.0% – 22.0% Crude Fiber – 25.0% Non Structural Carb (NSC) – 8.75% – 13.25% DE, Mcal/Lb. – 1.06 – 1.32 Calcium – 1.28% Phosphorus – 0.24% Ca:P Ratio – 5.3:1


So now let’s flip our consideration to among the advantages of grass hay, and the way it differs from alfalfa hay. Grass hay has:

  • Decrease Protein Ranges
  • Decrease Vitality Content material
  • Increased Fiber
  • Decrease Calcium Ranges

Grass hay sometimes is kind of a bit decrease in protein than alfalfa hay; the vitality content material of grass hay can be usually decrease than alfalfa hay. For many individuals who’ve horses, particularly mature horses, non-working horses, or horses that aren’t used for breeding, grass hay is usually most popular over alfalfa hay due to these decrease protein and vitality ranges. Grass hay can be very often a good selection for senior horses, because it’s simpler on the kidneys attributable to its decrease protein content material and can be simpler to chew and digest.

Grass hay can be hay selection for “simple keepers”, which means horses that simply achieve weight or battle to maintain their weight down, particularly ponies or miniature horses. Due to the excessive fiber content material, grass hay is a handy answer for these simple keepers since it will possibly fulfill the horse’s urge for food, with out including additional energy and protein.

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Grass hay sometimes has decrease dietary values than alfalfa hay, and can be decrease in calcium, making it nearer to a extra fascinating Ca:P ratio (between 3:1 to 1:1). Additionally, grass hay is usually much less dusty than alfalfa hay, so it a good selection for horses which have respiratory points. And in contrast to alfalfa hay, grass hay is just not subjected to the potential danger of blister beetles.

Right here is fast take a look at among the extra fashionable grass hays and their typical profiles:

Timothy Hay Timothy hay is excessive in fiber and usually is simple to digest. It tends to be costlier than the opposite grass hays, however it’s also increased in vitamins than different grass hays.

Timothy Hay Evaluation (common) Crude Protein – 6.0% – 10.0% Crude Fiber – 30% NSC – common of 12% (vary 7% – 18%) DE, Mcal/Lb. – 0.7 to 1.0 Calcium – 0.38% Phosphorus – 0.17% Ca:P Ratio – 2.2:1

Bermuda Grass Hay Bermuda grass hay is often cheaper than timothy or orchard hay. There are some issues that decrease high quality bermuda grass hay could trigger impaction in horses (talk about this along with your vet).

Bermuda Grass Hay Evaluation (common) Crude Protein – 7.0% – 10.0% Crude Fiber – 28% NSC – common of 12% (vary 7% – 18%) DE, Mcal/Lb. – 0981830117 Calcium – 0.43% Phosphorus – 0.16% Ca:P Ratio – 2.7:1

Orchard Grass Hay Orchard grass hay is just not as nutrient delicate to the time of slicing as the opposite grass hays, and can be cheaper than timothy hay.

Orchard Grass Hay Evaluation (common) Crude Protein – 7.0% – 11.0% Crude Fiber – 30% NSC – common of 12% (vary 7% – 18%) DE, Mcal/Lb. – 0.7 – 1.0Calcium – 0.34% Phosphorus – 0.23% Ca:P Ratio – 1.5:1

Oat Hay Oat hay has thick harder stalks that some horses won’t eat. Oat hay tends to be increased in nitrates and likewise excessive in sugar (NSC), so this hay is just not an choice for insulin resistant horses.

Oat Hay Evaluation (common) Crude Protein – 8.0% – 10.0% Crude Fiber – 28% NSC – common of twenty-two.1% DE, Mcal/Lb – 0981830117 Calcium – 0.29% Phosphorus – 0.23% Ca:P Ratio – 1.3:1

Right here’s a comparability chart so you possibly can see the variations between alfalfa hay, timothy (grass) hay and oat hay. As you possibly can see, alfalfa hay has a lot increased protein ranges than the opposite two hays, however can be decrease in fiber than the opposite two. Oat hay, nevertheless, has a lot increased ranges of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) that are the degrees of sugar and starch within the hay.

Hay Comparison Chart Best Hay To Feed Your Horse The chart beneath reveals the common calcium ranges, phosphorus ranges, and calcium to phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio. Alfalfa hay, as illustrated within the chart, sometimes has a lot increased calcium ranges than the opposite hays.

Hay Comparision Chart Calcium Phosphorous levels Best Hay To Feed Your Horse These are simply among the several types of hay sometimes fed to horses, together with a few of their variations, that hopefully will assist you decide which is one of the best hay to feed your horse. For those who’d prefer to study extra about totally different hays and their typical dietary profiles, a complete useful resource to go to is newurbanhabitat.com. And naturally, be sure to converse along with your equine veterinarian about which hay could be greatest to your horse primarily based on his personal particular person nutrient necessities.

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