With so many types of hay, it is important to know which hay has the best nutritional content for your livestock. Common livestock that should be fed hay in leu of pasture include: rabbits, goats, sheep, cows, horses, and even pigs. Whether they are raised as pets or livestock, you should always include hay in your rabbit’s diet. Fresh grass is a large part of a rabbit’s natural diet. If fresh grass is not easily accessible, hay needs to be supplemented. For adult rabbits, a grass hay is always preferred. Typically, pet store hay for rabbits is made from Timothy or Orchardgrass. When feeding baby rabbits, a hay made from Alfalfa can be used. It is important to switch to a grass hay by 6 months because Alfalfa is too fattening and nutrient rich for an adult rabbit. A rule of thumb for feeding your rabbits is to provide a bundle of hay the size of the rabbit every day.
Mature goats do very well on a grass-legume mix and some grass hays, but generally do not eat coarse grass hay; having small mouths, goats do not like it. Young goats, lactating does, and pregnant does can benefit from a legume hays such as alfalfa, clover, vetch, soybean due to higher protein and nutrient content. Be cautious over overfeeding bucks and whethers Alfalfa and other legume hay because it can lead to urinary calculi. With goats being browsers, they can eat a small amount of weeds in their hay (as long as they are not toxic weeds) compared to other livestock. Goats need 3-4% of their body weight in pounds of hay per day during the winter. For example, a 75 pound goat should be given 2.25 to 3 pounds of hay each day.
Sheep, similar to goats, prefer fine, leafy hay and will not eat coarse hay. Immature grass hay or leafy alfalfa is usually the best feed for sheep. Mature sheep are able to eat good-quality grass hay, but lambs and lactating ewes do better with a legume hay. Sheep are picky on how they are fed hay. If they are given hay on a wet or muddy ground, they tend to waste a lot. If your ground is frozen or dry, then sheep do well at picking up little pieces of hay compared to other livestock. Sheep require about 3.5% of their weight in pounds of hay per day.
For cattle, the nutrients depend on dairy vs beef production. If you are raising dairy cattle, a high protein diet of alfalfa hay is needed to keep up with the desired milk production. Late term pregnant and lactating cows (whether they are beef or dairy) also need a high quality hay. For cattle in the winter, they do best with extra roughage hay vs legume hay. The energy created to breakdown roughage helps keep them warmer. A good rule of thumb for cattle is to feed 3 pounds of hay per every 100 pounds of body weight. For example, a 250 pound calf would need about 7 pounds of hay each day. Fully mature cattle usually need about 24 pounds of hay per day in the winter time.
Horses do not need high levels of protein unless they are nursing mares. Horses do best on a good grass hay. However in the winter months, a grass-legume mix can be necessary to help raise body temperatures. More weeds are considered toxic to horses than most other livestock, so always use the best quality weed free hay that you can purchase. Horses should consume between 1.5-3% of their body weight in hay every day. For a 1,000 pound horse, this would be between 15 and 30 pounds of hay each day.
Pigs are less commonly thought of being fed hay. However, hay is a great choice for supplementing a pig’s winter diet. It is important to note that hay isn’t going to add much to your pig’s weight. Hay is considered low-calorie to pigs. Pigs can digest both grass and legume hay. A pig needs about 1 pound of hay per 100 pounds of body weight. For those with potbelly pigs or other overweight pigs, adding hay to the feed routine can reduce the caloric intake for your hogs.