Alfalfa Myths vs. Facts
Myth: The high protein in alfalfa causes osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), a joint disease of young horses. Fact: High protein doesn’t cause OCD. Rather, low protein is a risk factor for OCD. However, it’s true that the very unbalanced mineral profile in alfalfa could contribute to OCD. Myth: The high calcium in alfalfa can prevent OCD and other bone problems in developing horses. Fact: Calcium is important to developing bone, but so is phosphorus, magnesium, protein, and the trace minerals. Adequate mineral levels, in correct proportions, is the key. Myth: Alfalfa’s high protein causes kidney problems. Fact: High protein isn’t harmful to the kidneys. However, extra protein is metabolized to ammonia, which must be excreted by the kidneys. To handle this extra demand, your horse will drink more water and make more urine than he would otherwise. Myth: Alfalfa’s high protein makes a horse “hot.” Fact: For reasons that really aren’t clear, some horses are more energetic when being fed alfalfa — but it isn’t the protein. Myth: Alfalfa causes heaves or allergies. Fact: Alfalfa is no more likely to cause an allergic reaction than any other type of hay. Molds growing in the bales can cause respiratory tract symptoms, but the same molds can –– and do –– grow in any type of hay.