The Difference Between Alfalfa and Timothy Hay
The difference between Alfalfa and Timothy hay is one that often confuses many rabbit and guinea pig owners, especially first-timers!
For all small herbivores – that’s rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus – hay should make up around 80% of the diet. That means these pets should eat a portion of hay the same size of their own body every day!
Why is hay integral to your small animal’s diet?
Your small herbivores need the digestible fibres that are found within hay to keep their digestive system moving effectively.
It is also vital for their dental health as chewing on hay helps to grind down their teeth, keeping them at a healthy length and reducing the chances of them developing any dental diseases.
As well as being an important staple in their diets, hay encourages natural foraging and grazing behaviours which allows them to keep physically active and mentally stimulated.
Why choose Timothy Hay?
When looking at which type of hay to feed a rabbit or guinea pig, Timothy hay and Meadow hay are often considered the better and healthier options.
Timothy Hay is a premium quality perennial hay that is rich in fibre, naturally low in protein and calcium content which is integral to your rabbits and guinea pigs digestion.
Timothy Hay Nutritional Benefits:
There are many advantages of feeding your rabbits and guinea pigs Timothy Hay;
- It is ideal for adult rabbits and guinea pigs
- It is naturally delicious and nutritional
- It is rich in indigestible fibre to help stimulate gut motility.
- It helps encourage your rabbit or guinea pig to forage through the stems and leaves and have a good chew or even play.
- The abrasive texture helps support correct dental attrition
Why Choose Alfalfa?
Alfalfa is known as a great hay for baby rabbits, as it contains higher calcium and protein levels to help support healthy growth and development.
Like many other types of hay, Alfalfa is excellent for encouraging your small animals to forage and naturally graze. However, there are nutritional differences between both types of hay.
Alfalfa as a rabbit food ingredient is somewhat of a ‘Superfood’, as it provides lots of valuable nutrients with a whole host of benefits including:
- Fantastic levels of fibre (the most important element of any rabbit’s diet)
- Balanced calcium
- Essential amino acids and vitamins.
The roots of the Alfalfa plant reach much further into the ground than those of grass hay plants, accessing valuable minerals that are often only found much deeper in the soil.
These nutrients are naturally more bio-available to the rabbit, so they make a greater contribution to your pet’s nutritional requirements. The ratio of omega 3 & 6 in Alfalfa reflects that found in the natural diet of a wild rabbit. In addition, wild rabbits would normally consume large quantities of green forages containing beta-carotene to provide natural antioxidants and vitamin A – Alfalfa is naturally rich in these. It also helps to regulate acidity in a pet rabbit’s digestive tract and promotes a prebiotic effect to help support healthy gut flora. Alfalfa is naturally lower in sugar and starch, which also encourages a healthier diet and a lower chance of your pets becoming overweight.
Should Alfalfa be avoided in an adult rabbits or guinea pig’s diet?
While these concerns are certainly the case when speaking about the 80% hay portion of the diet, all of that changes when Alfalfa is used as an ingredient in the recipe of a balanced pet food.
Alfalfa, as part of a balanced recipe, does not present the same issues associated with feeding Alfalfa as a hay. In a balanced rabbit food, the calcium and protein levels are formulated in the overall recipe to meet the pet’s exact nutritional requirements, therefore avoiding any associated issues with too much calcium or protein in the diet.
So, if Alfalfa is so good for your pets, why is there so much controversy about it? Well, much of the pro-Timothy information relates to the hay portion of the diet. Feeding Alfalfa as a hay is very different from it being used as an ingredient in a nutritionally balanced pet food. When used as part of the pet food recipe, Alfalfa offers higher nutrition and therefore makes for healthier and happier bunnies!
If you have any further questions, you can reach out to us on our facebook page, or get in touch via our contact us page.