Alfalfa, Lucerne or Medicago sativa is a leguminous plant species that belongs to the bean, legume or pea family, i.e., the family Fabaceae. It mainly serves as a fodder crop (for silage, hay sold in bales, or grazing).
However, it can work as a cover crop, a source of green manure, and as an insectary where it is intercropped with cotton and other crops since it harbors predatory insects that will feed on any insects attacking cotton.
Humans also consume Lucerne while in sprout form. You will find it in the vegetable section of your food stores.
Nutritionally, alfalfa is a good source of amino acids like threonine, tryptophan, and lysine, as well as vitamin C and K, manganese, β-carotene, folate, thiamine, magnesium, calcium, iron, copper among other nutrients.
Can rabbits eat alfalfa?
Yes. Rabbits can eat alfalfa, including alfalfa sprouts. Like clovers, Lucerne is quite nutritious. However, since a rabbit’s diet should be more than 80% good quality grass hay like Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting “Perfect Blend” Timothy Hay, it should make a small part of their diet or given as a tasty treat.
Furthermore, mixed it with other great veggies like arugula, endive, kale, spring greens, wheatgrass, Bok Choy, carrot tops as well as some herbs like basil, cilantro and so on. Such a salad mix will ensure your bunnies benefit maximally from the various nutrients each has.
Finally, the small amount is because Lucerne has high protein and calcium levels, whose effects look at shortly.
Is alfalfa hay for rabbits also ok?
Yes. These pets can also eat alfalfa hay and pellets. Besides being more nutritive, they are quite enjoyable to eat. However, they should be part of their diet unless they are growing, nursing, pregnant or skinny. Why?
1. Has high protein content
While quite nutritious, we cannot ignore the fact that Lucerne is higher in proteins as opposed to grass hays such as meadow grass, timothy hay, orchard grass, and so on.
The excess protein is vital for growth, skinny, lactating, or pregnant queens. However, to adult rabbits, too much unnecessary and will lead to obesity, produce more urea that will strain their kidney while eliminating it, among other problems.
2. High calcium content
How calcium absorption in bunnies occur, and the fact that they are efficient at calcium reabsorption in their kidney poses a risk of urinary bladder stones and calcium sludge.
These pet’s calcium absorption is proportional to the amount available in their diet. Lucerne has 1.2-1.4% compared to timothy hay with 0.4%. Therefore, making its hay, a vital part of their food, will l lead to more calcium absorption.
More absorption for a long time will result in kidney and urinary problems bladder sludge and urinary tract stones.
Best alfalfa hay for bunnies
Some of the alfalfa hay for rabbits include the following:
- Oxbow Hay Products
- Viking Farmer Alfalfa Hay for Rabbits & Small Pets
- Rabbit Hole Hay Ultra-Premium
- Grandpa’s Best Alfalfa Hay
Feeding it to rabbits
The ideal candidates of Lucerne hay include weaned and juvenile bunnies that require high protein, calcium and so on since they are still growing.
Also, pregnant and breastfeeding bunnies need it as well as those that need to add weight include old rabbits that find it hard to add weight.
However, these candidates should not have any history of liver and kidney diseases as well as urinary bladder stones or calcium sludge formation.
When feeding them, for youngsters, reduce the use of alfalfa hay or pellet based once they are five months as you introduce grass-based hay and completely stop once they are adults.
Manufactured pellets are ok
All manufactured foods are nutritionally balanced. Therefore, if intended for adults or young ones, you can feed them to your bunnies without worry.
For instance, the Oxbow Animal Health Essentials Young Rabbit Food (Alfalfa Based), or Sherwood Pet Health Adult Rabbit Food – Alfalfa/Timothy Blend are both safe if fed as instructed. However, you cannot overrule the need for treats as they help in bonding but excessive amounts as they may result in imbalances.
Typically, rabbits should have unlimited grass hay, ¼ a cup of pellets per one pound of their weight, or about 5% of their daily dietary requirement, while a mixture of several veggies should account for 10-15% of their diet.
Alfalfa vs. timothy grass hay
While Lucerne is high in protein, calcium, and other nutrients, grass hays are lower in protein and calcium and have a better balance of nutrients, including protein, fiber, and fats. This proper balance is the main reason why they form a large part of their diet.
In terms of fiber, if harvested at the right time, Lucerne has a good amount of fiber comparable to grass hays.
Since raw unsprouted seeds are toxic to primates, including human beings, avoid giving them to your bunny too.
Alfalfa, its hay, and pellets are ok for bunnies if feed in the right way and if balanced or mixed with other foods. Therefore, mix them with other food and dot not feed them to these pets exclusively…