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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Feeding alfalfa hay pellets instead of alfalfa hay

Hi Dr. Getty,

I was wanting to get some advice on feeding alfalfa hay pellets instead of alfalfa hay. Hay is getting really expensive here and we thought we might switch to pellets instead. We have numerous aquaintances that feed pellets. I just wanted to get some feed back on feeding this way. We have a 4 year old gelding and a 1 1/2year old gelding. Both have been fed alfalfa hay since birth. They are both on rice bran and a complete grain pellet. The pellet they get in the evening with their rice bran in the John Lyons Complete. They each get about a pound to a pound and a half. Now here is my questions. We are talking about changing them over to alfalfa pellets. How many pounds of pellets versus hay do we feed? What is the best way to switch them over to pellets? How do you feel about feeding pellets instead of hay. By the way, both the geldings are in a 1/2 acre pasture. They do get grazing time in. Is it healthier to feed hay over pellets or vice versa? Any imput you may have on this would be great. We are at odds with this subject. I think we should just feed hay and she thinks we should feed pellets. Thank you so much for your imput.
Christina Craig

Where are you from? San Marcos, CA

How did you locate this forum? thru google

Re: Feeding alfalfa hay pellets instead of alfalfa hay

Hi Christina,

I am assuming that your horses are getting most of their roughage needs met by eating pasture and that the alfalfa hay is in addition to the grass that they are eating. If this is the case, you can offer them alfalfa pellets instead of the alfalfa hay. However, the hay is higher in fiber, so you would want to increase their grass or grass hay intake to provide the same level of fiber. Just keep in mind, at least half of their diet needs to come from grass and or grass hay. Alfalfa hay can be added to the mixture, but it’s not a good idea to have alfalfa as the only roughage source.

Having said that, if you wish to replace alfalfa hay with pellets, you should feed a smaller amount of the pellets, since they are more concentrated because they are made from the leaves and very little stem. So, for example, if you are currently feeding 10 lbs of alfalfa hay, you can offer approximately 5 lbs of pellets.

But, to do this, you will have the issue of feeding too large a meal. They are already receiving rice bran and a grain pellet. So, the overall meal should not exceed 3 to 3.5 pounds. In order to add this much alfalfa pellets to the diet, you would likely have to increase the number of meals.

Whichever way you choose, alfalfa is an excellent addition to the diet. My choice? Alfalfa hay. I generally recommend pellets to horse owners who are feeding a grass hay diet and want to offer a meal where they can add supplements. Alfalfa pellets make a convenient way to feed a low-grain meal that is palatable and nutritious.

All the best,

Dr. Getty