A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 6, 2009

Exploring new options in hay

As we move forward into the New Year, our minds can’t help but start to think about hay.  Will there be any new hay available locally?  What quality will it be?  What will the price be?

 

We are fortunate enough to have a stash of wheat hay on hand, and should be okay for hay until after the spring, however then we will need to look for something to replenish our stocks.

 

Typically we feed wheat hay to our herd.  It is grown locally, it tests well provided that it is cut at the right time and the alpacas love the taste of it.  If possible we prefer to buy a full years supply at a time to make sure we have plenty on hand and to provide consistency in the alpacas diet.

 

When Ric was at the feed store the other day the store owner mentioned to him that they have some large round bales of Tiffany Teff grass for sale.  A relatively new hay crop Tiffany Teff is a warm season annual grass that originates in Africa.

 

In the literature that is available about Tiffany Teff grass it is often referred to as being similar to Timothy in nutritive value and highly palatable.  Values such as 12-17% protein, 80 –120 RFV are mentioned and Tiffany Teff is also said to be high in calcium phosphorus, iron, copper aluminum, barium and thiamine.  Potassium levels can be as high as 2.5 to 3.0, which in the world of alpaca hay is too high.

 

So the question to us is “Is this suitable for alpacas”?  At the moment we really cannot say for sure.  We took a small sample of the hay and let the alpacas try it and they ate it readily and seemed to enjoy it.  So the hay has passed the taste test, however we really do not know what is in the hay until we have it tested.

 

Our local forage testing lab ADM Labs has been out and taken a core sample of the hay for testing and we should know soon how the hay looks on paper.    Depending on the results of the forage testing we will most likely try and do some further research to see if can determine if Tiffany Teff hay is suitable for alpacas when fed long term.  With Tiffany Teff grass being so new to the hay market it is possible that no one really knows if it is suitable long term for alpacas, but as it seems to be an up and coming forage crop I think it is worth us taking a little time to find out all that we can about it.

 

Rosemary

December 13, 2007

$17 Well Spent

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpaca Nutrition, camelids, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:33 am

We recently picked up some more bales of hay from one of our local hay suppliers.  Usually we like to pick up a year’s supply of hay at one time and we always have the hay analyzed before purchasing it to make sure it has the right nutritional content.

This year has not been the best for hay and when we made our purchases we bought less than usual in the hopes that we might find some better hay as time went on.  Unfortunately we have not been able to find any better hay and having worked out a feeding program using the two different hays that we have purchased we had no choice but to stick with those hays.

The hay we picked up the other day was, according to the farmer who grew it, from the same crop and same field as our previous purchase.  Looking at it the hay appeared greener and fresher than the previous bales we had bought and when we put a bale out for the boys they dug into it with relish.  This hay was supposed to have only been about 10% protein, lower than we usually feed but at that protein level we could combine it with the other hay we are feeding it made a good “noshing hay”.

When the boys were so keen to eat the new bale of hay it made us wonder if perhaps the nutritional content of the new bales was different and so we took a sample and sent it off to our local forage lab for analysis.  It is impossible to tell the nutritional value of a bale of hay just by looking at it, but we suspected that the hay was going to have a higher protein level than the first load we had purchased.

Imagine our surprise when we got the analysis back and it showed that the hay had not a higher protein content but in fact a much lower protein content.  The hay tested out to be only 6.05% protein, far too low a protein level to be good hay for any livestock.  Even more surprising was that the TDN (Total Digestible Nutrient) was only 35.50% and the RFV (Relative Feed Value) 46.49.  There is very little nutrient value in that hay at all.

Usually with figures like that the hay would be pretty unpalatable to the alpacas so we are curious as to why the boys seem to like that hay so much.  Needless to say we have increased the amount of the other hay that we feed them until we can find a better hay source than one that is only 6% protein.

We may well re-test the hay in case there was an error during testing, but most likely the first test is accurate. 

Many livestock growers do not have their hay analyzed and I have lost count of the number of hay growers that I have spoken to who tell me that they have not had their hay analyzed but that it is really good hay.  How can they possibly tell just by looking at it?

Our hay analysis cost us $17 a fraction of the value of one of our alpacas.  Had we not had that hay analysis done we could have blindly fed that hay to our herd thinking that as they were loving it that it was good hay.  Over time we would have developed a whole slew of health problems in our herd as that hay has very little nutritional value to it.  Our $17 was $17 well spent and probably saved us hundreds of dollars in vets’ bills further down the road.

Rosemary

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