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By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · March 14, 2014
When the word “alfalfa” is bandied about among horsemen, most immediately think of high-quality forage, a vividly green, sweet-smelling, leafy legume. Like all forages, though, not all alfalfa (lucerne) is grown, cured, or harvested identically, which makes the hay’s ultimate quality variable.
Differences in growing conditions and harvesting methods impact nutritional quality. Alfalfa hay can be off-colored, dusty, moldy, or weed-ridden, just as any grass hay might be. Therefore, it important to carefully evaluate any alfalfa hay intended for horses. If you are uncomfortable with this task, drag along an experienced hay buyer when it comes time to fill the hay-mow.
Most people can distinguish high-quality hay because its color is often bright and the smell is sweet and pure. An experienced cohort will help you choose between alfalfa that is likely rich in energy and nutrients, and alfalfa that is inferior in one way or another. Word of caution: do not let color be the only determining factor. Alfalfa hay does not need to be fluorescent green to be appropriate for horses. Good-quality hay comes in all shades of green. Forage testing by an accredited laboratory can reveal the nutrient composition of the forage and is the best measure of adequacy for horses.
Which horses benefit most from the inclusion of alfalfa hay in their diets?...
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