Not all hay is created equal. In fact, it varies greatly according to plant type, quality, growing region, and intended use. Timothy hay is more than just forage and has specific qualities that make it a premium feed option for a variety of feed programs.
The two most popular types of hay used as feed for livestock are legumes and grass hay. Alfalfa hay is the most well-known and widely fed legume (called “lucerne” in many parts of the world), and clovers are another type of legume that are also commonly incorporated in many feed programs. Alfalfa’s high protein content makes it ideal for milk-producing livestock and animals with high energy requirements.
Timothy hay, on the other hand, is a grass hay. Grass hay differs from legumes in that it is composed of long, hollow stems that grow up to 60 inches tall with leaves that can grow up to 17 inches. The heads (inflorescence) of timothy hay are usually 3-6 inches long and are densely packed with spikelets that flower when mature.
There are very specific climate requirements necessary to grow high quality Timothy that will be baled and used as animal feed. It is a cool-season grass that grows well with a cool spring and withstands harsh winters, but does not tolerate drought and will decline or die without adequate irrigation. Most growing regions that are well known for producing Timothy hay are found at the base of a major mountain range, where winds coming off the mountains dry cut hay before sun bleach sets in.
Timothy hay is used most often as cattle and horse feed. Its low protein, high fiber, and high energy content make it easily digestible. Due to its low protein levels, Timothy hay can be fed regularly to satisfy appetite without excess calories and protein, and in some cases provides enough protein for less active and stabled horses. For livestock with higher protein requirements, it is often part of a comprehensive feed program including alfalfa or another legume.
Around the world, many types of livestock utilize Timothy as part of their feed regimen including goats, camels, and sheep. Small animals also benefit from the high fiber levels of timothy hay. It is widely used as feed for rabbits, chinchillas, degus, and gerbils fed in unlimited quantities and is very important for digestive health.
For more information on Timothy hay, feel free to contact us or learn more on our website! If you’re interested in crop management information, click this link for an article from Washington State University on crop management. University of California, Davis has detailed information on factors that influence forage quality for orchard grass and Timothy hays and the resulting marketability here.
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