We know that the feed pellet machine can produce various animal pellets, such as cattle feed pellets, horse feed pellets, sheep feed pellets, poultry feed pellets, pig feed pellets and so on. What Richi Machinery brings to you today is can the alfalfa pellets produced by the feed pellet machine be fed to horses? Some farmers say that of course pellets, some say no.So, what exactly is it?
Can the Alfalfa Pellets Produced by the Feed Pellet Machine Be Fed to Horses
Forage for horses can be divided into two categories—grasses and legumes. Grasses you’re likely familiar with include orchardgrass, timothy, and bermudagrass and are long and stemmy. Forage legumes, such as clover and alfalfa, are members of the pea family and, so, are cousins of peanuts and garbanzo beans.
“Alfalfa is a perennial legume, grown in most regions of the U.S. for horses and other livestock,” says Krishona Martinson, PhD, associate professor and equine extension specialist in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Animal Science, in Falcon Heights.
It’s readily available and commonly fed, so it’s a logical foundation for many horses’ diets. In other areas, it is a delicacy of sorts, shipped in from different regions and bought a bale at a time on a vet’s recommendation to help certain horses that need nutritional support. For some types of horses—in either of those areas—alfalfa simply isn’t a great choice. And, so, that fragrant green bale comes loaded with nutrients and, for some horse owners, a multitude of misconceptions.
“The biggest benefit of alfalfa for horses is that it tends to be more nutrient-dense than most grasses when harvested at the same stage of maturity,” says Martinson. It typically contains more digestible energy, more crude protein and calcium, and fewer nonstructural carbohydrates (sugars and starches).
Which Horses Benefit From Alfalfa
Alfalfa is ideal for horses on high planes of nutrition, such as lactating broodmares, growing horses, thin horses, racehorses, performance horses, or young foals that aren’t getting enough milk. Because it’s so nutrient-dense, it is a good feed for underweight horses. It can also be beneficial to horses with muscle problems that are prone to tying-up (due to their increased protein needs) or horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) due to the lower amount of nonstructural carbohydrates.
Alfalfa is also suitable for horses prone to gastric ulcers, because the extra calcium acts as a buffer against stomach acid. You might offer performance horses alfalfa an hour or two before work or competition, during which acid can splash up into the nonglandular part of the stomach (where the cells of the lining do not produce protective mucus). The simple act of chewing creates more saliva, which also helps buffer stomach acid, says Lea.
Owners might also offer the legume to horses needing to develop more muscle, particularly along the topline. Stephen Duren, PhD, equine nutritionist and founder of Performance Horse Nutrition, in Weiser, Idaho, says this is because alfalfa provides amino acids needed for muscle regeneration. “We see this practice more in the East where a lot of marginal grass hay is fed.”
“With growing horses, however, use caution in amount fed, simply so they don’t grow too quickly or get too big too fast and become at risk for DOD (developmental orthopedic disease),” Martinson says.
Alfalfa is a good source of nutrients for sport horses, but owners might want to avoid offering it when horses are working hard in hot weather, says Duren. Protein metabolism creates more heat than fat or carbohydrate metabolism. This added heat can impair the horse’s ability to dissipate heat. He might even suffer from dehydration (due to extra sweating and increased urination from the alfalfa breakdown/flushing from the kidneys) and be more likely to experience heat stress.
A horse eating more protein than the body can use will also drink more water (to help flush out the additional waste products). This creates more urine and, thus, more ammonia odor.
“Ammonia in stalls can irritate airways and make horses susceptible to respiratory problems,” says Duren. “This is especially true with foals, since they are smaller and spend more time lying down. Ammonia is heavier than air and concentrated near ground level.” While feeding extra protein is wasteful, a high-protein diet in itself does not hurt a healthy horse. It can be detrimental, however, to horses with impaired kidneys or liver. These individuals have problems processing and excreting protein and should be kept on a very low-protein diet.
Duren also doesn’t recommend feeding straight alfalfa to endurance horses due to its protein and calcium content. The last thing you want on an endurance ride where the horse is sweating for long periods is the increased body heat, water needs, and urine production described. High levels of calcium, on the other hand, can interfere with the horse’s ability to mobilize bones’ calcium stores during exercise. Endurance athletes can benefit from small amounts of alfalfa, just like any other performance horse, says Duren, but make sure it’s not their sole forage source.
Some horses with unpigmented skin should not eat alfalfa because they could be prone to photosensitization caused by black blotch disease, says Martinson. This is a mold that causes black blotches on the undersides of the leaves of legumes, including alfalfa. “Horses ingesting this mold may experience excessive sunburn—which seriously affects unpigmented areas of their bodies,” she says.
The more serious issue with these horses, however, is the liver damage from the toxins in the mold.
When looking for good-quality alfalfa, be sure it’s clean with no dust or mold—just as you would with any hay. Also aim for a good leaf-to-stem ratio. If your horse doesn’t need the high nutrition value of pure alfalfa, look for a mixed grass/alfalfa hay. To determine the nutrient content of any hay. Even after you’ve selected good hay, it pays to check it for dust, mold, weeds, foreign objects, blister beetles, and dead animals as you feed it.
If we want to better formulate high-quality feed for horses, we can purchase alfalfa pellets specifically produced for horses. If we are able to buy a Grass/Alfalfa pellet machine, we can produce alfalfa feed pellets by ourselves. In this way, we can produce alfalfa pellets according to different horses and different feed formulas, and will not waste the pellets. For the production of large-volume alfalfa pellets, it is necessary to build an alfalfa feed pellet production line. The output can be 1 ton/hour, 2 tons/hour, 5 tons/hour, 10 tons/hour, 20 tons/hour, 50 tons/hour, etc.
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