Friday, February 24, 2012

Bale Me Out! All About Hay

 Hay and Rabbits

Hay is a necessity for rabbits. It is necessary for their digestion in many ways. Rabbit's teeth grow continuously and eating hay helps wear them down in the right way, compared to eating just pellets. Hay also provides fiber that is necessary for a rabbit's digestive system and also helps prevent blockages which can cause G.I. Stasis, which can be deadly. Alfalfa hay is commonly and best used because of it's higher protein and calcium content  for young growing bunnies until about 6-9 months old. They then should switch over to Timothy Hay because it is lower in the calcium and protein. Timothy Hay is also lower in calories which will help your rabbit maintain an ideal weight or lose it if too heavy. Below you will find select quotes on different aspects of  hay from some places on the web that are more expert than me. Alternatively, you can also check out online universities to find animal care degree programs that can teach you about rabbit food and diet information.

"Adult rabbits need a quality grass hay always available. Grass hays include timothy, orchard grass, bermuda grass, and others. You can find grass hays in pet stores, from horse farms or feed stores, at vet offices who specialize in bunnies, or online from pet hay suppliers. The trick is to find a good hay. Look for a green, fragrant hay. Most rabbits like soft kinds best, but having a mix of stalks and soft parts is great for providing the different kinds of bulk fiber that are good for teeth and digestive systems. Don’t buy hay that is all brown, dusty, has visible mold, or smells moldy. Dusty/moldy hay is dangerous for a bunny!
The most important part of a good hay is one that your bunny will eat. If you find a huge bale of timothy for $4 and bunny loves it, great! But if bunny won’t eat it, it just won’t do her any good. Picky bunnies often love Oxbow Hay brand, which can be found in some pet and feed stores, online pet suppliers, and at If you can’t find it locally, ask your pet supply store to order it for you or to start carrying it!"

Hay (definition from wikipedia) "is grass, legumes or other herbaceous plants that have been cut, dried, and stored for use as animal fodder, particularly for grazing livestock such as cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. Hay is also fed to pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Pigs may be fed hay, but they do not digest it as efficiently as more fully herbivorous animals."

Cuts of Hay

"Horsemen are very opinionated on which cutting is the best to buy. Although there are some differences in the cuttings, the quality of the hay is much more important than the cutting. From a nutritional standpoint, all cuttings can result in prime horse hay. With alfalfa, there will be some variation in protein content between cuttings. First cut alfalfa hay has the reputation of having large tough stems, but this is only true if the hay was too mature when cut. If first cut hay is mowed at the pre-bloom stage, the stems will not be coarse and the nutritive value will be high. Weeds do tend to appear in first-cut hay.

Second cut alfalfa hay is usually the fastest growing because it is developing during the hottest part of the season, and it usually has more stem in relation to leaf. Of all cuttings, second cut tends to be the lowest in crude protein, but its 16 percent average is adequate for all classes of horses.

Third (and later) cut alfalfa, develops a higher leaf to stem ratio because of the slower growth during the cool part of the season. Therefore, third cut hay will usually have the highest nutritive value. Horses which are not accustomed to a good, leafy hay may experience flatulent (gaseous) colic or a loose stool.

Mixed hays from all cuttings will have similar nutritional values except that with a grass/alfalfa mix, the first cutting will contain a larger proportion of grasses than the other cuttings."

Other Links On Hay
The article at this link is probably the best on everything a rabbit owner should know about hay in relationship to bunnies! Maybe even more than you ever wanted to know!

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