When can I put horses out in a field with alfalfa?

Asked October 23, 2015, 4:53 PM EDT

Is it safe to put horses out on an alfalfa field after a few hard frosts?

Fremont County Colorado

3 Responses

Once the final cutting of the alfalfa is done, horses can graze the field, but it is a good plan to feed grass hay before turning them out so that the horses do not eat too much of alfalfa at once. If there is a lot of standing alfalfa, it is best to limit the time the horses have access to the field to an hour a day initially, gradually increasing the time over a week or so.
Hard frosts will dry the alfalfa and reduce chances for colic.

Thanks for your answer. I do have a colic-prone horse, (he had a colic surgery six years ago) and he is one of the three I would like to turn out this winter on my hay field. Your response said that after hard frosts the chances for a colic would be reduced. Is that to say that the chances for colic would be increased even after hard frosts or just that there is always the chance for colic?

One field has quite a bit of standing alfalfa. I would wait to put them on that until well into the winter, but the other field has been cut and there's just very short, but sprouting alfalfa, on it.

I really want to put these guys out, but I don't want to increase the odds of another colic!

Thanks in advance for your response.

There is always a chance for horses to colic. If the one horse has not had colic in six years, I would say it has any greater risk than the other horses.
Adapting the horses to the alfalfa is the key! Limit the time they are on the alfalfa initially, increasing the daily grazing over a week or so.
Freezing temperatures tend to dry the alfalfa and make it less fermentable/frothy in the horse digestive system.