NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
November 2, 2000
Allowing horses to graze alfalfa thatís been subjected to frost will not cause digestive problems, according to a North Dakota State Univesity livestock specialist.
"There has been considerable concern across the region that frosted alfalfa is somehow toxic to horses," says Chip Poland, an extension specialist at NDSUís Dickinson Research Extension Center. "That is just not the case."
Poland says the misinformation may stem from several sources.
"Thereís a general perception in this region that alfalfa is not a good feed source for horses. Thatís contrary to some areas of the country where they donít feed horses anything but alfalfa."
Also, some Canadian research indicates that frosted alfalfa increases the bloat potential for cattle. Freezing damages cell walls in the plant. Frost-damaged forage ferments faster and bloat-causing proteins are released at a faster rate. But thatís only a problem in ruminants like cattle, Poland notes.
"Horses just donít bloat like cattle and sheep can," he says. "Even with calves, the problem would be with the alfalfa leaves, the highly digestible material. In our region, that lush growth is typically not a problem at this time of the year."
Poland says the biggest management problem for horses in the fall is providing enough nutrients to prepare them for winter. "Cold and wet weather will stress them. You want to be certain that all livestock are in good condition and health before winter. The best time to do that is now, before conditions are too harsh," he says.
Source: Chip Poland, (701) 483-2078
Editor: Tom Jirik, (701) 231-9629