Alfalfa Cubes for Horses קוביות אספסת תקציר מאמר [BR]Robert J. Coleman and Laurie M. Lawrence, Department of Animal Sciences; Jimmy C. Henning, Department of Agronomy [BR]Forage cubes are gaining popularity as an alternative to feeding long-stem hay. The cubes available may be 100% alfalfa, a mixture of alfalfa and grass, or a more recent product which is a mixture of alfalfa and whole corn plant. Availability of the different products will vary with local suppliers. For most horse owners, 100% alfalfa cubes is the product most readily available. As with any feedstuff, there are advantages and disadvantages that must be considered when making your decision to use alfalfa cubes in feeding programs for your horses. [BR]Advantages of Alfalfa Cubes[BR]? Reduced feed waste. Cubes are not wasted to the same extent as long-stem hay even if fed on the ground. Horses fed long-stem hay can separate the leaves from the stems and consume the parts they prefer; this does not happen with cubes. [BR]? Controlled feed intake. It is easier for the horse owner to monitor and regulate the daily intake of cubed forage than long-stem hay. [BR]? Consistent nutrient content. The nutrient levels found in cubes tend to be more consistent than hay. Alfalfa cubes are sold with a guaranteed minimum nutrient content. [BR]? Reduced dust. Cubes have little dust and are therefore a good alternative to hay for horses with certain respiratory problems. [BR]? Ease of handling. Cubes can be mechanically handled in bulk. [BR]? Reduced storage requirements. Cubes are more dense than hay and therefore require less storage space. [BR]? Reduced transportation costs. Cubes are more dense than hay and allow trucks to be loaded to their full legal capacity. This is not always possible with hay. Shipping costs for cubes can be reduced, assuming the shipping distance is the same. [BR]? Ease of transport. Alfalfa cubes take up less space in the trailer and may be easier for horse owners to take to shows or on trail rides.
[BR]What Are Alfalfa Cubes?[BR]In general, there are two types of cubes?dehydrated and sun-cured. Dehydrated cubes are made from alfalfa that is cut at an early stage of maturity and is partially dried in the field. The wilted alfalfa is picked up and chopped using a forage harvester. This material is transported to the processing plant where it is dehydrated to 95% dry matter and cubed. The sun-cured cubes are produced by allowing the alfalfa to dry in the field. The cured forage is then baled and transported to the processing plant, where it is chopped and cubed. The result of either processing method is alfalfa forage in a small package. [BR]Research with alfalfa cubes has shown that cubes are effective as the forage component in horse diets. However, alfalfa cubes must be limit-fed, as voluntary intake is much greater for the cubes than for long-stem alfalfa hay. Horses fed to appetite consumed 17 to 25% more cubed alfalfa than long-stem hay. [BR]Horses that are fed alfalfa cubes tend to eat all the cubes provided, whereas horses fed long-stem alfalfa hay will sort through the hay and not eat all the hay offered. Research in Colorado reported that mature horses fed alfalfa cubes maintained their body weight better than horses fed equal amounts of long-stem hay. The conclusion reached was that the horses fed the cubed alfalfa ate all the feed provided, while the horses fed the long-stem hay wasted a portion of the feed provided. controlled manner to prevent overconsumption of the feed. [BR]