In 2011, amidst the bucking of many farmers and consumers alike, genetically modified alfalfa seeds were released into America’s agricultural system. This poses a major problem for a number of reasons. After a little investigation it is plain to see that only the bio tech company Monsanto gains from this patented seed and its dispersal.
“Round- up Ready Alfalfa” is what this seed grows- a genetically altered alfalfa that is highly tolerant to large amounts of toxic herbicides and pesticides high in glyphosate. Round-up, the number one selling weed and insect killer produced by bio tech company Monsanto fits the bill.
But up until this seeds release and propagation, 93% of all alfalfa was not sprayed, meaning there was no need for this patented seed. This move was a deliberate attempt to eliminate the organic supply of alfalfa including the farmers who grow it, as cross contamination is inevitable and creates a dependency on purchasing from this expensive seed supply and its dependence on glyphosate rich Round-up. This is from Dr. Mercola’s website- “Toxicology and plant pathology expert Dr. Don Huber also pointed out that once you insert new genes into a perennial insect-pollinated plant like alfalfa, there’s no way to prevent cross-fertilization and contamination, and it cannot be eliminated once it’s distributed throughout an area.”
So… what is glyphosate? In simple terms it is a chemical that has proven highly toxic in humans, as it destroys the gut bacteria- the first line of defense in the immune system, actually comprising roughly 70% of the total immune system. The immune system is very important for obvious reasons, mainly fighting off disease. But glyphosate acts on the immune system bacteria the same way it destroys pests. This glyphosate is bred into the seed itself, meaning even if the crops were not sprayed, it will still be in the plant, systemically. And since its release in 2011, we can be sure it is in most fields today in varying degrees.
What does this mean for our horses? Well alfalfa was never intended to become a staple food for horses. It was for cattle, as it is very rich and good for fattening up/ finishing a cow before slaughter. It is very high in protein and often heavily fertilized, and can create some problems for horses. There is also some research showing it irritates the ileocecal valve, which too much irritation can lead to colic.
It is a very concentrated food and is best fed in moderation to horses, but now with a growing supply of contaminated hay, it might be best to avoid entirely. Horses do great on a variety of grass hays that are not high in sugar from Timothy, to Bermuda, Orchard, and Teff. It is recommended if you do purchase alfalfa, that you get it tested to be sure you are not feeding your horses glyphosate, and most importantly, share this information with your horse and cattle ranching friends. Knowledge is power and we must look out for each other and our community of animals.