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What is Timothy Hay?

Guinea pigs may enjoy eating timothy hay.
Some allergy sufferers may sniffle and sneeze around timothy hay.
Timothy hay may be mixed with other ingredients, especially alfalfa.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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Timothy hay is dried versions of timothy grass (P. Pratense), which is thought to have originated on the European continent. Early colonists to the New World brought grass seeds accidentally, inspiring significant wild growth of the grass in the US too. It was noted by the early 18th century that the grass was appreciated by grazing animals.

Although Timothy Hansen is credited with the idea of actually cultivating the grass for ha, he didn’t actually name the hay after himself. Records suggest that Ben Franklin was actually responsible for naming the hay, and praised its hardiness after planting several hundred acres of it in Vermont.

Many people who raise horses and cattle find timothy hay to be ideal as part of animal feed. It may be mixed with other ingredients, especially alfalfa and red clover. Certain domestic animals like rabbits and guinea pigs may also enjoy it as well. It is especially noted for a relatively low protein content, low moisture (which can help keep the dried grass from rotting), and high fiber content. Many animal care experts recommend it due to its seeming ease on various animals’ digestive systems and its promotion of bowel regularity.

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Another reason that timothy hay may be preferable to other forms, especially legume based forms of hay like alfalfa, is because of its low calcium content. Certain animals, especially rabbits, may be prone to bladder stones and crystallization of the urine, which can lead to early death or discomfort. Vets often recommend timothy hay to avoid these problems.

Early versions of timothy hay did best on the East Coast, but there are now variants that can be grown across the US, which include “western” timothy hay. For allergy sufferers, this isn’t necessarily terrific news. Many find they are strongly allergic to the pollen of timothy grass and don’t particularly appreciate its cultivation and growth.

This doesn’t mean that timothy hay doesn’t have practical and medicinal qualities. While it may make allergy sufferers sniffle and sneeze, it does prove to be a healthy part of feed for many grazing animals. Additionally, a medicine called Grazax® is made up of extract of timothy hay and is used to help people build up a certain amount of immunity to the grass. Grazax® is taken orally, and some people do find improvement in allergy symptoms as a result of taking this medication. Others find side effects like itching of the mouth to be just as bad as the allergic reaction, and stop taking the product.

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Discuss this Article

anon120895
Post 6

The cost of pellets versus bales of hay depends upon the location. Example, in Western Washington timothy hay sells for $20.50 for a 100# bale versus a 50# bag of timothy pellets for $15.69. But, there is practically no waste with pellets, whereas there is considerable waste with hay.

alex94
Post 5

@christym: That’s a good question, especially considering the price of hay pellets. In several areas, droughts are experienced during the summer months. Our country has seen many droughts and it reduces the availability of hay. Many farmers that normally sell hay had to keep it for their own livestock. Instead of spending gas money driving around trying to find hay, many people used hay pellets.

christym
Post 4

@alex94: Why would you use hay pellets instead of hay?

alex94
Post 3

@carrotisland: Hay pellets are an alternative to loose hay. Timothy hay pellets are pellets made specifically from timothy hay. Pelleted or cubed hay is the closest thing to baled hay. Most of the larger size feed or farm stores carry hay pellets. Hay pellets have a long shelf life because they are bagged and protected. You can usually even feed your animal around 25% less than with loose hay. This is because there is less waste and higher digestibility.

Here’s the only bad thing: price. In general, hay pellets cost about twice as much as baled hay.

CarrotIsland
Post 2

Has anyone ever heard of timothy hay pellets? If so, what exactly are they?

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