The alfalfa challenge

Putting fibre first in your horse’s diet should be a top priority. Fibre is essential for the health and well being of your horse - helping to ensure he stays happy and healthy. Fibre provides the horse with energy; the level of which varies between different types of fibre. Some, such as alfalfa or sugar beet, contain as much energy as a cool mix or cube. In contrast though to the cereals that are typically found in mixes and cubes, fibre provides slow release energy and so is beneficial for helping to avoid over-excitable behaviour. It also takes the horse a lot longer to chew fibre which, as horses evolved to eat almost continuously, is beneficial not only for their digestive system, but also their welfare.

Alfalfa is a commonly used fibre source for horses which has been used for over 2,000 years. It is a member of the legume family which also includes soya, peas and beans. It provides good quality, easily digestible protein, essential for strong bones and muscles, and it’s deep root network enables it to access lots of minerals which are then incorporated into the plant. Research at the Royal Dick Vet school, Edinburgh, showed that feeding alfalfa improved the quality and quantity of hoof horn which was believed to be due to the abundant levels of calcium that it contains. Alfalfa provides an excellent source of slow release energy providing as much energy as a cool mix or nut, but in a more natural format - which lets your horse eat like a horse! We believe that everyone should “think fibre first” with their horse’s diets. By replacing some or all of the cereals in your horse’s diet with alfalfa you will be helping to keep him happy and healthy. If you want to take up the alfalfa challenge and start your horse on an alfalfa based diet, here’s what to do.

Step One

If you don’t know how much of each feed you use then it’s time to get the kitchen scales out and weigh them. For example, one large scoop of mix would weigh in excess of 1kg whereas one large scoop of any of the Alfa-A products would weigh approximately 400g. Alfa A scoop1

Step Two

Next, it’s time to look at the back of the feedbag to determine how much energy is found in each of your current feeds. Energy in horse feeds is measured as Mega-Joules per kilogram (MJ/kg), for example Alfa-A Original is 10 MJ/kg.Beyond the label

Step Three

Once you have found this information then it’s time to dust off the calculator. Firstly calculate the energy value that you need to replace by multiplying the MJ in each feed by the amount fed. This is shown in the example below.

Current diet – 15.2hh mare in light work, condition just right.

Feed MJ/Kg Amount Fed Kg MJ(per day)
Low Energy Mix 10 1 10x1=10
Chaff 8 0.3 8x0.3=2.4
    Total 12.4 MJ/day

Step Four

Choose a Dengie Fibre Feed which has a similar MJ/kg value to the coarse mix/nut feed you currently use the most of. In this example it would be the low energy mix (10 MJ/kg) and a feed with a similar energy value would be Dengie Alfa-A Original (10 MJ/kg).

Step Five

To calculate the amount of Alfa-A Original needed, divide the MJ of the old diet by the energy level of the new feed. So for example, 12.4 MJ/day ÷ 10 MJ/Kg = 1.24kg of Alfa-A Original which is approximately 3-4 large round scoops.

Step Six

This is where you need to check the recommended feeding guidelines on the back of the Fibre Feed bag. For example, we would not recommend feeding over 3kg of Alfa-A Original for a 15.2hh horse. If you calculated that you needed to feed more Alfa-A Original than this then you need to consider using a higher calorie feed like Alfa-A Oil to meet your horses energy requirements without exceeding the recommended feeding weight guidelines.

Step Seven

Although alfalfa has naturally good levels of vitamins and minerals, a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement such as one of the Dengie Natural Vitality Vits & Mins or a feed balancer like Dengie Alfa-A or Hi-Fi Balancer should ideally be fed alongside to ensure the diet is balanced.

Step Eight

Of course if this all sounds too much like hard work call the Dengie Feedline on 0845 345 5115 and we will do all the maths for you, and help get your horse on to a healthier and more natural diet!


CONTROLLED ENERGY: Alfalfa is a legume with clover like leaves which provides high levels of digestible fibre - an excellent source of "slow release energy". Energy from fibre feeds is enough to meet the needs of most horses and ponies in light to medium work. Unlike the quick release energy from cereal based feeds, which can cause "fizziness" and behavioural problems, the energy in Dengie’s Alfalfa Feeds is released slowly within your horse’s gut, helping to provide energy without attitude!

ESSENTIAL HIGH FIBRE: Primarily stimulating the gut to aid food passage, fibre regulates the rate at which food passes through the gut helping to maintain digestive function.

HEALTHIER COAT, SKIN AND HOOVES: Alfalfa is an excellent source of the quality protein needed by all horses for growth and repair, helping to keep them fit, strong and healthy. Alfalfa is also rich in the vitamins and minerals a horse requires. It is a proven fact that alfalfa can improve the quality and quantity of hoof growth (Source: Vet Record, 1987).

LONGER CHEWING TIME: Fibre satisfies a horse’s psychological need to chew, keeping him occupied and happy. A horse will take 3 times as long to chew a chopped fibre feed than a cereal based product – helping to avoid boredom and associated behavioural problems.

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