Lucerne – some interesting facts
There has been ongoing debate regarding the value of adding Lucerne to the equine diet. However according to the experts in equine nutrition Lucerne should be included in the diet, but in moderation. It is best fed along with other roughage such as oathay or Teff.
Lucerne is classified as a legume and is high in protein and contains high levels of Calcium and Magnesium.
It has a high fibre content which makes it fairly digestible and most horses find it very palatable. It can safely be fed to all horses, but must be fed in controlled quantities to prevent problems.
Stud horses such as pregnant mares should not be fed too much Lucerne as they will become overweight if they are fed more than the calories they are using. Along with Lucerne a lactating mare will need to fed a good Stud concentrate. The Lucerne will be valuable in her milk production, but unfortunately will not meet all her mineral requirements.
Riding horses can be fed Lucerne in moderation. Excess protein can be harmful to a stabled horse. It can cause swelling of the legs, respiratory problems and dehydration due to increased urinating. A good guideline is to keep your horse’s Lucerne intake at less than 50% of his daily roughage ration.
Ponies must only have small quantities of Lucerne as they are prone to obesity. However Lucerne is very valuable in the diet of older ponies. Horses and ponies do not digest fibre and protein efficiently as they get older. Feeding them an easily digested roughage with protein, such as Lucerne will allow them to keep their bodyweight. Rations should still be monitored.
It is important to pay attention to the quality of your bales. A good bale should be sweet smelling and leafy. The poorer bales will have a low leaf content and contain weeds. It will also appear dusty and have a musty smell.
In conclusion it has to be said that Lucerne is a valuable addition to the equine diet. Lucerne has in the past caused some problems relating to the feeding thereof, but generally it would not be due to the feeding of Lucerne, but the quantities fed. Moderation is key.