Rethinking feeding fresh alfalfa to rabbits

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by MaggieJ, Jul 21, 2006.

  1. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    11,280
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    I am a believer in feeding fresh greens to rabbits, in increasing quantities as they become accustomed to them.

    I feed a mixture of dandelions, plantain, raspberry leaves, clover and alfalfa. When other greens are scarce or I am busy the percentage of alfalfa in their mix tends to rise... it is very quick to harvest compared to most of the others and the rabbits all love it.

    The rabbits have no digestive problems from this diet... but I am beginning to wonder if there may be a downside to fresh alfalfa that I may not be aware of.... Just a gut feeling on my part.

    Anyone have any comments or perhaps leads to getting some good info about fresh alfalfa for rabbits and poultry?

    My rabbits, geese and chicks all love the stuff. Is it safe for them as a regular feed?
     
  2. BellsBunnies

    BellsBunnies Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    418
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    Alfalfa is high in protein and over an extended time can cause damage to the liver and kidneys and other organs. It can also put your rabbit into a molt when it shouldn't be moulting. Alfalfa also has a high calcium content that can cause bladder sludge. Alfalfa is also the primary ingredient in alot of rabbit pellets - so by adding more can result in to much protein in the diet.
    You might find some information here>
    http://islandgems.net/feed.html

    http://www.tsukiyo.org/argent/index.html

    http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?dept_id=0&siteid=9&acatid=347&aid=781
     

  3. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    11,280
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    Thanks, Bells Bunnies, for the input. I don't quite understand, however, why they put so much alfalfa in the pellets if it is a bad thing when fed separately. Maybe I should be doing more research in general on non-pellet feeding.

    In any case, I think I will cut back on the fresh alfalfa for the time being.
     
  4. BellsBunnies

    BellsBunnies Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    418
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    Your very welcome Maggie!

    I'm like you and don't understand it either. I think so much of it is actually good for them but when you add the x-tra with the pellets it becomes bad.
    I also feed plantain and clover and dandelion and don't seem to have any problems with my rabbits. If you find any information please be sure to post it about the non-pellet feeding.
    Thanks,
    Bell
     
  5. Terry W

    Terry W Duchess of Cynicism

    Messages:
    3,230
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2006
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Any type oif processing done to food will alter the nutrtional levels of the food. That is a given--processing food usually lowers the values---making food into pellets removes water, as well.\ Also, when feeding fresh foods, you are feeding whatever is in YOUR sources soil---and are not adding extras to balancenutrients out
    This is why so many people say "pellets only"
     
  6. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,727
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2003
    The breeder I got my original rabbits from told me to give them timothy hay, not alfafa. I started out buying the little packages of timothy from the pet store, then discovered I could buy a square bale from the feed store for about the same price as the little packages.

    edited to add: I forgot to include that she told me to only give the timothy hay to them once a week. I saved empty tp rolls (had some friends saving theirs too, they thought I was nutz! LOL) and filled them with hay for the bunz. They loved it! It was like a treat for them every saturday. My rabbits were Angora's. It might be different for other breeds.
     
  7. KSALguy

    KSALguy Lost in the Wiregrass Supporter

    Messages:
    8,818
    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2006
    Location:
    S.E.Alabama
    alfalfa becomes perfectly safe once you dry it out, its the green fresh stage that can cause probelms in most ALL livestock because its so rich, just simply drying it out for hay makes it one of the best foods available though,
     
  8. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    11,280
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    Maybe what I should be doing is cutting it in advance for the rabbits and drying it well before feeding. Once I got ahead it would still be a convenient homegrown food.

    KSALguy, by "all livestock" do you also mean poultry? Over on the poultry forum the consensus seemed to be that it was not only okay to give fresh alfalfa to my chickens and geese, but highly beneficial. I certainly don't want to harm them... but they do love it and it really helps to fill up my eleven insatiable Dominique chicks. Typically, I give them a big bunch every afternoon - the diameter of the gathered stems would be about two inches or a bit more. The geese get what they can steal or beg as I cross their yard. I'd like to give them more, but am waiting until I have this question sorted out to my satisfaction.

    Thanks to everyone for the input. I do appreciate it!
     
  9. KSALguy

    KSALguy Lost in the Wiregrass Supporter

    Messages:
    8,818
    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2006
    Location:
    S.E.Alabama
    sorry by LiveStock i was reffering to the Four legged kind, horses, cows, sheep, Goats, Donkeys etc, all can Founder on green Alfalfa and get all kinds of stomack problems, Goats and Rabbits would be able to handle it a LITTLE better but not much, small doses only and in close supervision, we had an old farmer whos cows got out into a green field of Alfalfa onece and all of them went down from eating their fill
     
  10. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    11,280
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    Thanks, KSAlguy, for the clarification. Makes sense that mammals and birds would not necessarily react in the same way. Soon as I get a bit of free time, I'm going to research the whole alfalfa question in more detail.
     
  11. Rosarybeads

    Rosarybeads Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    544
    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2004
    Location:
    Kansas
    I always recommended giving timothy/grass over alfalfa, because the alfalfa CAN cause diahreeah and kill the rabbit. The smaller the rabbit and the less "used to it" they are, the higher chance it has of causing a problem. Fresh greens that aren't so high in protein would be safer. All greens can cause diahreeah if they aren't used to it and you give them too much. Alfalfa is just much worse because it is so rich. It's like eating a whole gallon of ice cream to a rabbit. :)
     
  12. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    11,280
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    Yes, I realize a little goes a long way with something like alfalfa. My rabbits are well-accustomed to eating greens and were introduced to them very gradually. I do make a point of feeding a mix, but there are days when the alfalfa is just so handy and appealing to the rabbits that they perhaps only have two varieties of greens instead of their usual three to five.

    My concern over alfalfa is not so much their digestive system as overall nutrition. The consensus seems to be that fresh alfalfa is not a good idea. So I guess I I'll start cutting it and give them sun-dried alfalfa along with the other safer greens.