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RE: [RC] [RC] Midwest horse feeding and riding buddies - Susan E. Garlinghouse, D.V.M.

Nope, alfalfa does produce more core body heat---not because of calories
(the caloric content of alfalfa isn't all that much higher than good grass
hay), but because of the high protein.

When protein is digested, the enzymes snip off the nitrogen end of the
molecule and carries off whatever amino acids are needed for tissue repair
at that time.  Any proteins in excess are utilized for energy, which is
useful (about 15% of energy production is via protein metabolism of one sort
or another), but not particularly efficient.  Some of the energy content in
protein goes towards actual work production, but a large percent is 'wasted'
in the form of metabolic heat---which can either be utilized to maintain
body temperature, or must be removed through sweat production and so on.

I can't remember the exact numbers, but a few pounds of 'average' alfalfa
raises the core temperature of horses by about a degree or so for maybe 4
hours.  Useful in cold climates, especially where the horse hasn't yet
acclimatized to a change in venue (ie, San Diego to Omaha).

There is also a relatively small proportion of heat produced just by normal
fermentative digestion, although not nearly as much in horses as is true in
ruminants such as cows and sheep.  Used to be in Europe, cows were kept on
the ground floor, and they heat they produced through normal digestion went
a long ways towards heating the family quarters overhead.  Smelly, but cozy.

So my advice would be to provide grass hay free choice, but for at least the
first winter, a little alfalfa during cold weather wouldn't be amiss.  Keep
in mind the 'zone of thermal neutrality' (the temperature range at which no
extra energy is expended to either heat or cool the body)  is a lot lower
for horses than it is for humans.  Humans are around 70 degrees F or so,
horses are down around 40 degrees.  So throw them a flake of alfalfa if
there's a storm coming in, or the wind chill is low, but don't assume
because you're chilly, that the horses are freezing, too.

BTW, just keep asking around for grass hay---when I was living in northern
Colorado, I had no problem getting absolutely beautiful brome grass in small
bales.

JMO.

Susan Garlinghouse, DVM, MS

-----Original Message-----
From: ridecamp-owner@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:ridecamp-owner@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Joe Long
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 3:40 PM
To: ridecamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [RC] [RC] Midwest horse feeding and riding buddies

On Mon, 14 Nov 2005 10:52:50 -0600, AMFura <stonerabbit66@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Perhaps those more knowledgeable than me can reply to dispel or confirm
this, but I have always been under the impression that alfafa produced more
heat during digestion. I don't know the specifics, but if I remember
correctly, it produced more heat than grass hay because of the richer
protein content.
I'm not sure if I'd feed it for the sole pupose of keeping my horse warm,
but I'm here in Nashville and the weather doesn't get that bad in winter!
Angie F

I'm no nutrition expert, but AIUI protein does not contribute significantly
to
body heat.  Calories do that.  I suspect that the "old wives tale" that
feeding
alfalfa keeps a horse warmer in winter than grass hay was started by an
alfalfa
salesman.

-- 

Joe Long
jlong@xxxxxxxx
http://www.rnbw.com

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