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Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Answers to Horse Nutrition Questions

Excerpts from "The 101 Most Frequently Asked Horse Nutrition Questions"  

by Stephen E. Duren, PhD, Weiser, Idaho

 

December 2011 issue

 

What are the nutritional differences between legume hay (alfalfa) and grass hay?

 

     There are several nutritional differences between legume and grass hays. In the United States , legume hays typically include alfalfa and clover. Grass hays include many varieties of grasses and can encompass the grain (oat) hays.

     One of the most significant differences between legume and grass hays is protein content. On average, legume hays will contain much higher levels of protein, sometimes in excess of 15%, and grass hays typically will contain 10% protein or less.

     The extra protein in legume hays is not dangerous to horses. In fact, horses can utilize protein for energy. The downside of this surplus protein is that nitrogen, a by-product of protein digestion, must be eliminated from the body. Horses will drink more water and urinate more frequently when given excess protein.

     The energy content is also different between legume and grass hays. Legume hays will contain more calories per pound than grass hays. This higher calorie load of the legume hays translates into fewer pounds of hay necessary to maintain body weight.

     This is not particularly good news for those horses that have trouble keeping their weight down. Legume hays contain more calories than grass hays because they have lower fiber content. The higher fiber levels in grass hays allows horses to eat  more feed without packing on the weight. This is the reason that most nutritionists who want to reduce the calorie intake of horses advise feeding grass hay.

     The other major difference between legume and grass hays is the mineral profile. The calcium content of legume hays is typically very high in relation to the amount of calcium in grass hays. On the other hand, the phosphorus content is similar between legume and grass hays. Because calcium is higher in legume hays and phosphorus is nearly the same, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in legume hay is quite high. This mineral ratio is important for proper bone growth. Hays containing an excess of calcium without adequate phosphorus can lead to bone anomalies. 

 

 

            The book is $19.95, plus $5.05 priority shipping (US only), plus sales tax, where applicable. To purchase, contact Performance Horse Nutrition at 208-549-2323 or visit www.performancehorsenutrition.com.

 

 

Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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