Alfalfa is a green, leafy legume hay that is frequently included in livestock feed regimens to add more nutritional value. It's frequently consumed as a garnish in humans and appears to stop the stomach from absorbing cholesterol. There isn't enough credible scientific data to justify its widespread usage as a herbal remedy for problems like diabetes, indigestion, high cholesterol, and many others. A diet rich in forage materials, such as hay, is very beneficial to tortoises. This is far more cost-effective and superior to fruits and veggies. In this article, we'll discuss if tortoises can eat alfalfa and the benefits of this hay.
Can Tortoises Eat Alfalfa
Yes, tortoises can eat alfalfa. Alfalfa pellet bedding is highly palatable, not only to tortoises but to other species. Alfalfa can be preferred over other types of plants due to it being easily digested and an excellent substrate for tortoises. So, they can serve as good food for your tortoises.
A diet that includes a sizable amount of forage material, such as alfalfa, is very beneficial to tortoises. In comparison to fruits and veggies, this is healthier. 85% of the fiber in alfalfa makes it a recommended food for your tortoises.
Alfalfa is also high in protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals. It is also very digestible for your tortoises because of the fiber content in it. Alfalfa is mostly preferred among other hays by most pet owners because it has low cellulose and more cell solubles. Because it has a high-protein and low-fiber content, alfalfa should be fed to your tortoises in conjunction with other higher-fiber hays like grass hays.
Which Is Better? Alfalfa Hay or Grass Hay?
Owners of tortoises have often pondered which type of hay is best for their little pets. We'll examine the distinctions between grass and alfalfa hays in this part to see which is better for your little tortoise.
Just the protein and fiber levels make a significant distinction between grass hay and alfalfa hay. The differences between alfalfa hay and grass hay are primarily in the amounts of protein and fiber; one has a high amount of fiber, while the other has a high amount of protein. Grass hays like Brome, Orchard Grass, Timothy, and Bermuda hays have slight variations in nutrient content and trace minerals.
Grass hays are high in fibers than alfalfa hays but alfalfa has a higher protein content. Because of their high fiber content, grass hays have been extremely popular among horse owners due to the lower amount of protein and energy and high fiber. Alfalfa, on the other hand, is great for tortoises but would be better if given with grass hays to make up for its lower fiber content which grass hays have in abundance.
Demerits Of Alfalfa Consumption in Tortoises?
Apart from being rich in protein, alfalfa is also high in oxalic acid and can cause stone formation within the kidney and bladder. Thus, mixing it with other rich fiber grasses every once in a while is the best option. Mixing alfalfa with other hays reduces the effects and risks posed by the oxalate. Oxalic acid or oxalate is a poisonous substance that when consumed in excess can harm tortoises significantly. The biological substance oxalic acid possesses chelating and acidic characteristics. Burns, nausea, vomiting, and severe gastroenteritis are all possible side effects. Excessive oxalic acid stops the tortoise from absorbing calcium, which will quickly result in calcium deficiency and weak bone formation.
Nutritional Content of Alfalfa
Besides being a source of good food for your tortoise, alfalfa is a plant that can be easily digested. It is an excellent substrate for tortoises and it is packed with the nutrients your tortoise needs such as proteins, energy, vitamins (vitamin K and vitamin C), and minerals.
Alfalfa contains large amounts of vitamin K. Your pet tortoise needs vitamin K to generate the many proteins required for blood clotting and bone formation. By helping the blood clot, alfalfa might decrease the effects of warfarin.
In one cup or 33 grams of alfalfa, the vitamin C content is 3%. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps support the immune system of your tortoise. It is also known as ascorbic acid and it plays an important role in tissue health and the absorption of iron from food in tortoises.
Alfalfa contains a high amount of protein. About 1 gram of protein is present in every 33 grams of alfalfa. The protein aids the tortoise's ability to maintain a healthy metabolic rate and repair damaged tissues.
Alfalfa also contains fiber but in a very low amount compared to grass hays which have very high fiber content. The presence of fiber in a tortoise's food helps with digestion and maintains the health of its digestive tract.
Other Benefits of Alfalfa To Your Tortoises
According to a recent study on animals, alfalfa is said to possess the cholesterol-lowering ability. Alfalfa reduces the bad and toxic cholesterols in your tortoises and increases the good cholesterol which decreases the risk of heart disease. This cholesterol-lowering effect in alfalfa is a result of a high content of bioactive compounds like saponins, which are known to lower cholesterol levels.
Saponins and other bioactive compounds do this by decreasing the absorption of cholesterol in the gut of the tortoise and increasing the excretion of compounds used to create new cholesterols.
Alfalfa is also known to lower blood pressure in tortoises or other animals. It is also beneficial in getting rid of kidney stones. Alfalfa also Improves the metabolic health and cardiometabolic health of tortoises by decreasing blood fat and blood sugar levels.
While tortoises can eat alfalfa, it is a lot safer to mix it with other hays like grass hays to reduce the effect of the toxic oxalate in them. Alfalfa pellet bedding too is highly palatable, not only to tortoises but to other species. Alfalfa can be preferred over other types of plants due to it being easily digested and an excellent substrate for tortoises. So, they can serve as good food for your tortoises.