Lucerne (alfalfa)

Lucerne (or alfalfa) hay is made from the lucerne plant (Medicago sativa), a leguminous temperate perennial plant. Lucerne hay, when it is produced and stored correctly is commonly green in colour and should, on closer inspection contain a high percentage of leaf material and fine stems.

Description:

Lucerne (or alfalfa) hay is made from the lucerne plant (Medicago sativa), a leguminous temperate perennial plant. Lucerne hay, when it is produced and stored correctly is commonly green in colour and should, on closer inspection contain a high percentage of leaf material and fine stems.

Properties:

Lucerne hay has high protein and carbohydrate concentrations that contains more energy than grass or cereal hays and chaffs. It is rich in the essential amino acid lysine and in calcium, and low in phosphorus. It is also hight in potassium and extremely low in sodium. Lucerne also contains high concentrations of magnesium, and when fresh, vitamins A and E. Depending on where it was geographically grown, it contains varying concentrations of other macro and micro minerals. A by-product of the process of digesting lucerne protein is internal heat. This is obviously not desirable for endurance, eventing or race horses, especially on hot days. The application of nitrogen to accelerate plant growth will elevate protein levels in grass well past the requirements of the average horse. In this situation, adding Lucerne to the diet is unnecessary and potentially harmful, contributing to many problems facing horse owners such as head flicking, laminitis, behavioural troubles, musculoskeletal, reproductive and growth related issues including Developmental Orthopedic Diseases (DOD) to name but a few. Another issue with Lucerne is it has a high phytoestrogen content. In this respect it is similar to Clovers and has the potential to upset the cycling of mares and cause other reproductive problems. Lucerne, like clover, is also high in photodynamic (fluorescing) pigments which are the real cause of sunburn and mud fever.

Possible uses:

Lucerne hay may be fed safely to all classes of horses, however due to its high protein and energy characteristics, it must be fed to horses in controlled quantities to prevent problems that may be caused by excess energy and protein in the diet.

• Lucerne is a valuable forage in the diet of growing horses. It provides growing horses with a digestible source of energy as well as a source of high quality protein and the essential amino acid lysine. Lucerne’s calcium rich characteristic is also beneficial for growing horses that typically have high calcium requirements

• Lucerne hay is an exceptional source of energy and good quality protein for pregnant and lactating mares. Lucerne hay will also help to support these mares’ elevated requirements for calcium and the essential amino acid lysine

• Lucerne hay can be used to contribute energy, good quality protein and a source of fibre to the diet of a performance horse, however, as with the growing horses and pregnant mares, it must be fed in moderation. Unlike the above classes of animals, excess protein in the diet of working horses and particularly those that are stabled can be detrimental to their health and performance

• Lucerne may also be useful when a horse is grazing oxalate pastures.

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