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Alfalfa- ok or not?

Discussion in 'Tortoise Diet and Food' started by Elisa, Nov 18, 2018.

  1. Elisa

    Elisa New Member

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    I'm confused. According to tortoise table, alfalfa is not ok. But the sulcata diet sheet says it is. So which is it?

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  2. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    It's ok as part of a varied diet. I wouldn't use it as a staple.
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  3. ALDABRAMAN

    ALDABRAMAN KEEPER AT HEART 5 Year Member

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    ~ This is basically what we do, we try and offer 100% Orchard Grass if possible, at times O & A are our only available options and we do offer that. They love it, however, it is not the best option.....

    46155807_719562351738554_3576817977783222272_n.jpg
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  4. Cheryl Hills

    Cheryl Hills Well-Known Member

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    Only one I could find here was orchar grass/alfalfa mix. I got a compressed bale of it.
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  5. surfergirl

    surfergirl Well-Known Member

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    ALDABRAMAN, is orchard better than bermuda? I just gave my sulcata some
    Of Orchard hay tonight and he loved it, he just LIKES bermuda hay. The lack of his excitement is seen loud and clear. I thought maybe the Timothy and orchard hay was too sweet and soft for it to be the grass staple for the desert torts.
  6. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    In the old days it was thought, incorrectly, that protein in tortoise diets caused pyramiding. We now know that to be false, but anything with protein was to be avoided like the boogeyman 10 years ago. We've learned that some plant protein is very good for them, as long as they are well hydrated and fed other things too. As Yvonne said, a diet of nothing but alfalfa is too much, but a little bit once in a while is good for them. I grow my own and feed them a bit of fresh green alfalfa once or twice a week mixed in with other greens.

    The other time protein can be a problem is if the tortoise is chronically dehydrated, as so many are. A little bit of protein, especially plant protein like what is in alfalfa, is no problem for a well hydrated tortoise.

    I also recently learned from @Will that alfalfa actually has some vitamin D3 in it, which is quite unusual for a plant, and quite beneficial for a tortoise.
    AZtortMom and drew54 like this.
  7. jsheffield

    jsheffield Well-Known Member

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    There's a lot of of conflicting/contradictory information out there, along with no shortage of certainty from the people serving it up ... it can be confusing and frustrating.

    I trust the experienced people here over the tortoise table, both over other online sources, and take them all with a grain of salt.

    Jamie
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  8. Will

    Will Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    So here is a little synopsis of a few anecdotes. I'd rather not use the actual names of people that I do not know if they are on TFO. I am not trying to be sketchy.

    One very long term tortoise breeder, in the greater Phoenix area, who has written some books and has a look-alike brother recently said that he uses the 'fines' from bales of Alfalfa for a substrate for young tortoises. The bales are fed to sulcata and large leopards among other species, but all those small bits, mostly leaf, fall from the flakes and are called 'fines'. The young tortoises eat other food items and will eat the bits and pieces of dried alfalfa leaf. The adults are on grass enclosures, so no knowing the exact proportion of the diet is alfalfa or grass. They all get both.

    Another breeder, who hatches a 'bazillion' sulcata each year also feeds whole bales of alfalfa to the adult sulcata, along with other foods. Again the exact proportion is not known. They have free access to alfalfa along with other grass hays most of the time.

    These are anecdotes told during talks or in conversation, I have seen it in action with direct observation or pictures used in presentations. I use alfalfa pellets rehydrated and mixed in with any other food stuffs. It is higher fiber and as Tom pointed out, I presented that Alfalfa actually has vitamin D3 in it. There is not enough D3 to sustain a tortoise if that were the only source, but it has some.

    A bit more specific, but think about this alfalfa, also called lucerne, grows somewhere in the wild. It grows in Asia and Europe naturally, which happens to be where some Testudo live, and yes they eat it in the wild.

    https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/174725/19402449 here is he range map.

    The people who run The Tortoise Table have a reasonable rationale for their very conservative feed, feed sparingly, do not feed system. People get carried away with a simple diet, and overfeed something that brings the tortoise owner joy, while watching the tortoise eat.

    I have fallen victim to this as well, and lost animals due to it. The TTT people are being proactive on behalf of the tortoise by being overly restrictive with the tortoise owner. There are indeed plants that are toxic to tortoises on their list, and many that are okay to feed in small amounts, but it's a simple do, do not system. Some folks become zealots about it, and that is out of the control of the TTT people.

    ALFALFA is OKAY to feed in a varied diet.

    Here is a link to analysis of the many ways alfalfa is used. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/275
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  9. orv

    orv Well-Known Member

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    WILL: would there be any nutritional difference between freshly cut, green alfalfa, dried alfalfa, or re-hydrated pelletized sources? All assuming a well-hydrated diet.
  10. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    There is a difference depending upon how mature the alfalfa is when it is harvested. For example, prebloom alfalfa is 20% protein. Midbloom it is 17% protein and mature alfalfa is 15% protein. All stages have a great cal/phos ratio of 4.5:1 prebloom to almost 6:1 midbloom, then 5.6:1 mature.

    For comparison, Orchard grass is 9.4% protein and cal/phos ratio of 1.5:1
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  11. orv

    orv Well-Known Member

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    Thank you, Mark.
  12. Elisa

    Elisa New Member

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    Wow, a lot of great info. Thanks guys. I learn so much from you well known members, even with simple questions.
  13. Will

    Will Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Yes, it's here https://www.feedipedia.org/node/275 click on the "Nutritional tables" button and you will see in the headers for each chart, exactly what part or type of process has been evaluated.
    • Nutritional aspects this button, also from that first URL, talks about the differences in the stages of growth that @Markw84 talks about.

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