Alfalfa can help to counteract gut acidity

Recent research has indicated that the incidence of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) is higher among all horses than previously thought and attention has turned to feeding regimes as a means of preventing its on-set and mitigating or curing the condition.

Feeding alfalfa can counteract increased acidity in the hind gut and stomach

It is believed that ulceration can also occur in the hind gut due to increased acidity generated by excessive consumption of starch or fructan.  A Dengie-funded study carried out by Doctor Jo-Anne Murray of Edinburgh’s Royal Dick Veterinary School, shows that in laboratory tests, feeding alfalfa alongside cereals and grass has the potential to counteract the negative effect of increased acidity in the hind gut as well as the stomach.

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

A condition previously associated almost exclusively with the racing thoroughbred, Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome, has been found to be more prevalent among both performance and leisure horses – the incidence among non-racing performance horses is estimated to be as high as 67% while up to as many as 37% of leisure horses are at risk from the condition according to a recent US study.

“Insufficient fibre and high cereal diets can combine to ill-effect when it comes to EGUS” explains Dengie’s senior nutritionist and product manager, Katie Williams.

Horses are trickle feeders and would naturally graze for up to 18 hours a day.  The secretion of saliva, which has a neutralising effect on acidity in the gut, is only stimulated in horses by chewing.  Feeding ad lib forage ensures the horse is chewing for longer and alfalfa as a bucket feed takes considerably longer to eat than cereals.  This is particularly important to consider when horses are stabled for longer during the winter months.

Alfalfa is the best addition to the concentrate ration for helping to reduce the risk of EGUS

Horses who are fed a high cereal diet are at increased risk of EGUS and a simple strategy for counteracting this risk is to add alfalfa to the feed.  Not only does alfalfa increase the chewing time thereby generating more saliva to neutralise acidity, the nutrients it contains will actually help to buffer the acidity.  This means that alfalfa, over and above other sources of fibre, is the best addition to the concentrate ration for helping to reduce the risk of EGUS.

In addition to feeding, intensive exercise, physical stress and illness, transportation and stable confinement are all considered risk factors.