Isn’t hay just hay? Yes and no. There are some big differences, mostly in fiber and protein content.
There are grass hays, legume hays, and grain hays. Grass hays are the ones most people picture when you say hay. They are also the ones typically used with adult small animals, because the protein and fiber levels are a natural fit. After all, these are closest to what little animals eat on their own! Legume and grain hays are useful for specific situations, or just to mix things up a bit.
Grass hays –
Orchard Grass: Great fiber, low protein, a nice way to mix up the hay offerings and make texture a little more interesting. Typical analysis: Crude Fiber 34%, Crude Protein 10%, Calcium 0.33%
Timothy: This is the staple of the rabbit diet. When you think of hay, this is probably what you picture. The mainstay hay for the healthy adult rabbit. Typical analysis: Crude Fiber 32-24%, Crude Protein 8-11%, Calcium 0.4 – 0.6%
Legume hays –
Alfalfa: they most easily found legume hay, this is much higher in calcium, and has a higher protein level than grass hays. Alfalfa is lower in fiber than grass hays as well. It is the hay of choice for young animals (less than one year) or elderly animals who are having trouble maintaining weight. Alfalfa is usually too fattening for adult animals in their prime. Typical analysis: Crude Fiber 28- 34%, Crude Protein 13-19%, Calcium 0.46%.
Then there are some grain hays, such as –
Oat: This hay comes from the same plants as cereal grain. If this hay is harvested prior to the oat tops ripening, it is green and nutritious. If it is harvested after the oat tops have ripened, the stalks turn from green to brown and can still be harvested as straw for bedding. Typical analysis: Crude Fiber 31%, Crude Protein 10%, Calcium 0.4%.
Knowing the fiber and protein levels for different kinds of hay might be important to you if you have a young animal who is still growing, or an older animal who is having some trouble with keeping weight on. Maybe you’ve got an overweight rabbit, and need to cut back a bit on protein and add a higher fiber hay. You can fine-tune according to your animal’s needs. To make things even more specific, you can also go with certain “cuts” of timothy – 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cut, each of which has certain characteristics.
Where can you get terrific hay? From Small Pet Select, of course!
Stay tuned for info on what “1st Cut”, “2nd Cut”, and “3rd Cut” means…and YAY for HAY!