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Hay Buying Guide

Small herbivores, like rabbits, have a constant hankering for top-notch, fresh grub and hay is the superstar that should make up a whopping 85-90% of their daily dining experience. Yet, let's face it—when it comes to choosing the right hay from the plethora available, it can be like navigating a maze without a map.

Much like us, every animal has its own flavour fancies but they can also switch up their tastes faster than you can say "carrot treat." Just when you think you've cracked the code and found their hay of dreams, they might do a 180 and opt for something totally different. But would you be thrilled about munching on the same thing day in and day out? Nope, didn't think so.

That's where we step in, armed with an array of hay types and textures that are practically tailor-made to charm even the most discerning herbivore. We're all about dishing out variety that's music to their taste buds.

Not all hay is created equal. There's a whole world of textures, scents, and flavours waiting to be explored, each with its own unique benefits. So, whether your herbivore is a timothy enthusiast or has a soft spot for orchard grass, we've got you covered.

So, buckle up, because we're about to embark on a hay-tasting adventure that will leave even the most curious critters craving more. From the meadows to your furry friend's food bowl, there's a world of hay variety waiting to be savoured, and we're here to guide you through every nibble and nosh.

‘Cuts’

Let's delve into the fascinating world of hay "cuts." You might not know it, but hay isn't just a one-time thing; it's a seasonal symphony of growth and harvest that plays out multiple times a year, all influenced by the whims of the weather. So, let's break down the hay cuts.

Picture a sunlit meadow, dappled with vibrant greens. Hay, as nature's bounty, can be harvested up to 2-3 times annually—assuming the weather's on our side. These cuts, occur during the prime months, usually spanning from May to September. 

Now, the first cut of the season is like the opening movement of the symphony. The plants have weathered the winter, and the stems are sturdy and robust. It's a hay filled with the matured essence of the plant, where seed heads stand tall and ripe. We describe these hays as ‘Coarse Cut’ within our website.

As the seasons evolve, so does the composition of the hay. The second cut is slightly less stalky, with more leaves and fewer seed heads. It's like a shift in the rhythm, a smoother progression that brings more harmony to the blend. It should be no surprise that we refer to this cut as our ‘blend’.

But then comes the third cut—the grand finale. This cut is a tricky one to nail, a balance of finesse and artistry. The stems take a backseat, and the hay becomes a tapestry of leaves and a scattering of seed heads. It's the softest of them all, a culmination of the plant's growth journey and something we refer to as ‘Soft Cut’.

Now, let's talk nutrition. Each cut boasts its unique tune, and that's reflected in the nutritional composition. The first cut, hearty and robust, takes the lead in fibre content. The third cut, delicate and refined, may sway towards slightly higher protein. However, the variations aren't dramatic, and the nutrients remain harmonious throughout. The emphasis, unless your furry friend has specific dietary needs, should be on providing a medley of hays to offer a diverse diet.

Think of it like a buffet of flavours for your furry companions—each cut has its notes to contribute, enriching the nutritional tapestry. So, whether it's the bold crescendo of the first cut, the mellower melodies of the second, or the elegant finale of the third, the hay cuts dance together, crafting a nutritional masterpiece for your small animals. It's a story told by the land, nurtured by the sun, and reimagined with each cut of hay.

Let’s start with Timothy Hay, who is Timothy and where does it come from?!

Timothy Hay – The Ultimate Nutritional Standard

Timothy hay proudly holds the coveted title of the gold standard in rabbit feed. Its impeccable ratio of fibre, protein, and essential nutrients makes it the pinnacle of nourishment. This remarkable hay's health benefits have been meticulously acknowledged by veterinary experts and professionals, which is why it reigns as our best-selling hay. Available in three cuts – Coarse, Blend, and Soft – Timothy hay caters to various preferences and dietary needs. Our uniquely crafted blend seamlessly combines the best of both the coarse and soft cuts, ensuring a well-rounded diet for a diverse range of animals.

But why the name "Timothy," and where did it originate? 

Named after a farmer, Timothy Hanson, who introduced it to cultivation in the 18th century, this grass is no ordinary plant. It originates from Europe but is now grown the world over. 

 

Orchard Hay – Palatability Perfected

Another esteemed choice is Orchard hay. While boasting nutrient and fibre values akin to Timothy hay, Orchard hay possesses an added advantage: exceptional palatability. Its allure is particularly beneficial for finicky eaters. The synergy of Timothy and Orchard hay offers a harmonious blend that satisfies even the most discerning taste buds.

 

Meadow Hay – Nature's Nutrient Medley

Meadow hay, a rich tapestry of multiple grass varieties, thrives in meadows. This intricate blend delivers the epitome of diversity and falls within the medium texture spectrum. Meadow hay's nutritional composition can exhibit slight variations based on the field of origin due to its assortment of grass species. With this diversity, it becomes a nutrient and vitamin powerhouse, mirroring the nutritional needs of wild rabbits in their natural habitats. For healthy rabbits, it's a safe haven. However, for animals with specific requirements, relying solely on Meadow hay might pose challenges due to its varied profile. It's a choice that beautifully imitates the natural feeding habits of wild rabbits.

What hays to avoid?

Having explored the nutritious wonders of suitable hays, it's equally important to understand what to steer clear of. Keeping in mind that your cherished animal has reached the stage of adulthood, maintaining a consistent nutrient intake becomes paramount to prevent potential diet-related health complications. Here's a spotlight on the hays that are better left off the menu.

Alfalfa

Firstly, let's talk about alfalfa—a hay that shines in the realm of nutrition but has its limitations. It's like the superhero of young rabbits, laden with high protein and calcium content that works marvels for their growth. However, as rabbits transition into adulthood, their nutritional requirements evolve. The excessive protein and calcium in alfalfa can lead to health concerns rather than benefits. It's akin to outgrowing a childhood diet that was once perfect but doesn't quite suit the needs of adulthood. Should only be fed in very small doses once adulthood has been reached.

Rye Grass

Rye grass, (sometimes masquerading as ‘Sweet Hay’), may sound sweet, but itRye Grass harbors complexities that deserve attention. Rye grass is a staple in intensive farming operations, particularly for the racehorse and dairy industries. Its inherent high sugar and starch content translates to a surge of energy, ideal for scenarios demanding peak performance. This grass drives rapid weight gain and maximizes milk production in dairy livestock. Its a grass which is usually very popular when fed to animals due to its high palatability from the sugars within the grass. We think its more akin to feeding sweets to children and would not recommend this as a long term feed option despite how much the animal's may like it!

Understanding Rye Grass Risks of Ergot Toxins

Ergot is a fungus that contains poisonous alkaloids. It mostly grows on rye and is usually associated with rye. Since the fungus mainly infects rye, it is inevitably more common in areas with heavy rye cultivation. If consumed, ergot poisoning can be severe, ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to loss of limbs, miscarriage and death. There is currently no cure available.

Ryegrass & Deciphering Diploids and Tetraploids:

While terms like "diploids" and "tetraploids" may seem distant to the average individual, they hold significance in understanding rye grass variations. Diploids feature smaller cells, resulting in a higher content of structural cell wall materials. In contrast, tetraploids possess larger cells, contributing to a higher concentration of water-soluble carbohydrates, essentially sugars.

Ryegrass, Endophytes and Unseen Risks:

Rye grass brings another facet into play—endophytes. These organisms generate mycotoxins, akin to natural insecticides. One mycotoxin, 'Lolitrem B,' is notorious for inducing staggers across livestock. Another, 'ergovaline,' has the potential to trigger heat stress and reproductive issues. While some strains claim to be endophyte-free, the risk still lingers, as the infection can spread without certainty.

Ryegrass, Fructans and Digestive Challenges:

Ryegrass carries the weight of high fructans, a complex sugar structure. Unlike other plants that store sugars as easily digestible starch, ryegrass locks its sugars as 'fructans.' Mammals lack the enzymes to fully break down fructans. The outcome? An increased risk of digestive ailments, such as laminitis in horses for example.

For these compelling reasons, we've chosen not to offer rye grass as a feeding option. It's a grass that carries risks that outweigh its benefits, particularly when compared to other nutritious hay alternatives. Some individuals in the industry may sell it, often marketed as "Sweet" hay, but it's crucial to scrutinize the composition and ascertain whether high amounts of rye grass are present.

Ultimately, selecting the right hay is like crafting a tailored diet plan. Just as you'd consider dietary needs and preferences for yourself, doing the same for your animals ensures their health and happiness remain at the forefront. It's a journey of informed choices, a commitment to providing the best, and an ongoing exploration of what keeps them happy and healthy.

The Take-Away

Choosing the best hay for rabbits depends on a few factors, including the rabbit's age, health, and preferences. However, Timothy Hay is often considered one of the top choices for rabbits due to its balanced nutritional profile and benefits for their dental and digestive health.

Timothy Hay is rich in fibre, which is essential for maintaining proper digestion and preventing gastrointestinal issues in rabbits. It also helps wear down their teeth, which constantly grow, and promotes healthy dental hygiene.

Orchard Grass Hay is another excellent option, as it provides variety in taste and texture, keeping rabbits engaged and stimulated. Orchard Grass Hay also offers a good balance of fibre and nutrients.

Meadow Hay, a mix of various grasses and plants found in a natural meadow environment, can also be a great choice. It provides rabbits with a diverse range of flavours and nutrients, similar to what they would consume in the wild.

Ultimately, a blend of these high-quality hays can provide a well-rounded diet for rabbits. It's a good idea to observe your rabbit's preferences and consider their specific needs when selecting the best hay for them. Providing a mix of different hays can keep mealtime interesting and ensure your rabbit receives a variety of nutrients.

The key is to choose hay that is fresh, free from mold, and suited to your rabbit's individual needs.

Never forget, the mere presence of a product on the market doesn't automatically equate to its suitability or safety. At Hay Box, we stand firm in our commitment to your animal’s well-being. Our ethos revolves around one steadfast principle: offering only feeds that are unequivocally safe and completely natural. In a world filled with options, we strive to be your unwavering source of trust and assurance, ensuring your animals receive nothing but the finest.