Feeding Lucerne Hay
Lucerne, which is more commonly known as Alfalfa, is grown using the Lucerne plant. This type of hay contains a higher percentage of leaf material and fine stems, which is not so noticeable in grass hay. In fact, Lucerne hay has a much greener colour than grass hay as we know it today. Lucerne is a popular product across the continent but does remain an untapped protein source in the UK despite its huge potential to be a valuable part of several different animals’ diets.
From sheep to dairy cows, to poultry, rabbits and horses, Lucerne’s nutritional content can benefit animals for a number of different reasons – something so vital when looking towards a healthy and happy animal.
Nutritional Benefits of Lucerne
Lucerne is a highly nutritious food source full of fibre. Bales generally contain around 18% high quality protein which provides essential amino acids such as Lysine (something which can be low in many other feed sources).
This form of fibre is highly digestible by providing animals with sustained energy levels and promoting gut microflora – this makes for a healthy gut! The high volume of calcium also aids bone health, joints, and the nervous system, to name but a few!
The added benefit is that this feed source is highly palatable, and animals love it!
Feeding Lucerne to…
Particularly in the free-range sector, fibre-rich food is very important to keep poultry flocks healthy. Not only does the high-fibre Lucerne bale keep the gut of the birds healthy, but a better yield from protein and energy-rich concentrates can be achieved. In addition to acting as a pigment to produce the yellow colour in the egg yolk.
Biosecurity within the poultry sector is particularly stringent, and for good reason too! Sickness in one bird can spread like wildfire, so the extra fibre found in Lucerne is extremely beneficial in creating thicker manure and drier conditions for the birds, reducing infection rates.
Lucerne bales are the perfect product for birds to perch, peck and de-construct – For happy and content birds!
Lucerne hay can be particularly beneficial in the case of mares and foals – This is where Lucerne is most frequently used within the Equestrian industry.
The nutritional contents of Lucerne provide growing fillies and colts with an excellent source of protein, calcium, and energy to ensure they grow at an optimal rate and remain healthy. Likewise, with pregnant and lactating mares, the importance of a high amount of good quality energy and protein is vital to ensure that the mares can cope during this stressful and exhausting time.
However, the exceptional nutritional contents of Lucerne do present the need to feed this product in controlled quantities to prevent excessive weight gain or health issues relating to excess energy and protein in the diet.
· Dairy Cows
With the reduction of nitrogen fertiliser and sprays a must for the future of British Agriculture, Lucerne presents a great advantage. With it being a legume, there is no need to treat the crops with artificial sprays or fertilisers at all.
Lucerne can improve ruminant health in dairy herds, something that can cause huge problems for dairy herds if not sorted quickly. By adding Lucerne into the total mixed ration (TMR) it provides cows with the all-important fibre they need to improve the health of their gut. By improving the ruminant health of the herd, decreases in metabolic disorders have been identified by dairy farmers across the country.
Whilst not a widely adapted concept, Lucerne can be fed to pregnant ewes pre- and post-lambing to ensure that they have a highly nutritious diet during this stressful and challenging period, much as can be done with mares as we have already discussed.
Farmers have been known to feed this product around 60 days before lambing and 3 weeks post lambing in order to ensure that sheep take on enough protein, adding molasses to the bales where necessary to increase that much sought-after energy throughout lambing.
If you’re looking to get a new young rabbit then Lucerne is definitely going to be a product you should invest in. Lucerne mixed with grass hay will ensure that rabbits remain healthy and strong whilst they grow.
Due to the high nutrient levels this must be monitored continually to ensure that there is no case of over feeding your rabbit, leading to unpleasant illnesses such as urinary stones as their system is built to excrete calcium through urine.
So, there you have it! The high fibre in Lucerne benefits the health of a range of different animals, if used in the correct way. We would always advise speaking with a nutritionist if you have any specific questions relating to your animals, but why not give it a go!
If you are interested in purchasing some of our Baled Lucerne Hay, please get in touch.