Research from Texas A&M University shows that feeding alfalfa to horses with the potential to be high performers either prevents or is therapeutic in treating stomach ulcers.
Something in alfalfa hay tends to buffer acid production, said Dr. Pete Gibbs, Extension horse specialist. Feeding grain, confinement, exercise and overall environmental stress factors are thought to cause ulcers, he said. Studies have shown that horses will heal if provided less acidic diets.
In the research, 24 quarter horses from 12-16 months old were separated into two treatment groups. One group was fed Bermuda grass hay and the other fed alfalfa hay to meet the daily roughage needs. The yearlings received forced exercise during the study. The horses were examined internally with an endoscope at the beginning and end of two 28-day trials.
It's commonly thought that horses turned out on pastures are better off than those that are confined. However, if grass hay is the only hay they are fed, horses can still get gastric ulcers, he said.
In this study, ulcer scores increased when alfalfa was removed from the horses diets, and they were turned out on pasture. Under the ulcer-scoring system, 0 signified no ulcers, with severity increasing to level 4.
Further work is needed to look at horses with varying degrees of ulceration to better determine the full extent to which alfalfa or alfalfa-based products might help from a feeding management standpoint.
Based on what we know right now, for horses that are kept in confinement, eating feed and getting forced exercise, it makes sense to consider some alfalfa as part of their diet, he said.
Until further research is done, he recommends, horses weighing between 1,000-1,300 pounds should be fed about 1 pound of alfalfa after a grain meal.
Follow this link: http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=224