Medicago sativa might be better known as alfalfa to you and I; Alfalfa is in the same plant family as peas, beans and clover. Alfalfa has been cultivated for fodder for horses for over 2000 years originating from Iran and then spreading across the world as Persians, Greeks and Romans expanded their empires and took their horses and their feed with them. There is a reason alfalfa is still used for feeding to horses today and that’s because it is safe and nutritious. Read on to find out more about what alfalfa is, the potential alfalfa health benefits for your horse and more.
The fibre in alfalfa gives your horse slow release energy which they can use for maintenance, work or putting on weight. Alfa-A Original provides as much energy as a cool mix does. This means for many horses, there is no need to use cereal based feeds at all.
The alfalfa plant has a very low content of both starch and water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) such as sugars and fructan. When oil is added as a coating to alfalfa, sugar levels are typically less than 5%. Feeds are rarely (if ever) sugar free, as even straw contains some sugar, but the low-sugar and starch content does highlight the alfalfa health benefits for your horse. Due to it’s low starch and sugar content alfalfa is ideal for laminitis prone horses or ponies and those with muscle problems.
When shopping for horse feed, look out for our ‘No Added Sugar’ logo to be sure you are using the lowest sugar options available. Our Alfa-A Molasses free feed is made from pure alfalfa and is naturally low in sugar and starch.
Protein has historically been thought to be the cause of all evil in horses, but research has shown that this is not the case. In fact, high starch or sugar diets are usually the culprits. Alfalfa is rich in protein which is made up of the building blocks amino acids. Protein is a vital constituent of muscle and feeding alfalfa is a healthy way to help build muscle tone.
Alfalfa contains nearly three times as much calcium as grass and as it is a plant, the calcium it contains is much more available to the horse than that from inorganic sources such as limestone flour which many supplements are based on. Although rich in some minerals, alfalfa doesn’t contain a full range at the correct levels. This means a balancer or supplement should be fed alongside to balance your horse’s diet.
Independent research has shown that the alfalfa plant is a better buffer than grass forage due to the level of calcium, protein and other components it contains. This means alfalfa plant uses extend to helping to regulate acidity in the digestive tract.
The alfalfa plant is rich in beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body. It also contains vitamin E and the B vitamins Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, Biotin and Folic acid. Alfalfa also contains valuable levels of the trace mineral cobalt that enables the horse to synthesise vitamin B12 which is involved in iron absorption and utilisation.
For further information on feeding alfalfa and how your horse can benefit from an alfalfa-based diet, contact one of our nutritional experts here at Dengie.