How Does One Recognize Fresh Grass Hay?

papua piig oxbow timoth hayGuinea Pig Today

Papua Piig knows how to recognize fresh hay. He prefers Oxbow's Orchard Grass and Timothy Hay. Hay should be about 70% of your guinea pig's diet for proper nutrition and to keep their teeth sufficiently ground. Always keep clean, fresh grass hay available to your pets.

Question and answer from Oxbow Animal Health‘s Live Facebook chat with Dr. Micah Kohles, Oxbow’s Director of Veterinary Science and Outreach.

When picking hay, what should I look for to know it’s fresh?

Selecting a high quality premium hay for your little one is one of the most important things we as owners do. I would start with always selecting a high quality brand that you know and trust. Any package of hay can “look” good at different points in time. But, beyond just looking good, knowing that the hay has gone through a rigorous quality assurance process is important.

When actually looking at the hay, I would first feel the hay. We prefer hay that is fairly soft to the touch and not hard, brittle and full of stems. Also, smell the hay. We do not want hay that smells musty. I would also look at color. We like hay that is more green in color than anything else. I don’t want you to think that the hay has to be bright green but in general the greener the hay the better. I would also suggest not buying hay that has been cut. Sometimes, companies sell hay that is baled. The process of baling hay often requires it to be cut, sometime more than once. The more you cut and physically manipulate the hay, the more the hay can change in a negative way.

Read more about what Dr. Micah Kohles had to say about animal health on Oxbow’s Facebook page. If you have a question for Micah regarding the health or behavior of your small animal, write to Oxbow’s “Ask A Vet” anytime.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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7 Responses to “How Does One Recognize Fresh Grass Hay?”
  1. Janna says:

    My experience with Oxbow hay has been that it is very “stemmy” and not soft at all. It is usually very green, but it is very dusty and full of seed heads. This aggravates my allergies, and so I am trying to find alternative sources of hay, since most store hay is like this.

    • I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences with Oxbow hay. From time to time, there are “off batches” that I’ve seen, but overall my experiences have been pretty good. My least favorite hay is Kaytee and it unfortunately is the most popular in stores around here. Hopefully you can find a local farm that sells hay directly to you. Might even be able to save money that way.

    • What you are describing is pretty typical of Timothy hay. As Angela says batches do vary but stemmy with seed heads is “normal”. There are differences in types of seeds planted, where they are grown and what the weather is like that all affect the end product. In my experience the quality of Timothy can be wildly different from one purchase to another.

      If you can, try Oxbow Orchard Grass hay. It is much softer than Timothy with very few stems and no seed heads and the quality seems much more consistent. It also has essentially the same nuitritional value as Timothy. I switched to Orchard Grass several years ago and my pigs won’t touch Timothy anymore!

      Orchard Grass may be easier on your allergies as well. I don’t experience allergies but several piggy parents I know have noticed less irritation after switching.

  2. Christine says:

    So they would advise against buying “3rd cut” hay? Because that is generally the softest hay you can get…

    • The way I read the article he cautions against buying a batch of hay that’s been cut (smaller) some number of times for bailing, etc. Among other things that means the pigs don’t get nice long strands of hay to eat which is important for their teeth and digestion, etc.

      Technically “3rd Cut” has to do with when in the season the hay is harvested. That’s my understanding anyway. There’s a nice explanation from KM’s Hayloft which can be found here:

  3. Mitch says:

    I am in NO WAY associated with them (seriously), but I have been feeding my pigs this hay:

    and it’s always soft, delicious smelling, and my (7) piggies go crazy for it 🙂

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