In winter, hay for rabbits is the basis of the daily diet. Chewing on hard vegetable fibers, animals grind off ever-growing teeth, getting rid of serious problems. Their elongated intestines are adapted to digest this product, and any transfer to other foods is associated with the occurrence of gastrointestinal disorders, constipation and abdominal distention, which can lead to the death of your pets.
Universal feed for the winter season
The most rapid growth and weight gain in rabbits ensures their daily feeding with green vegetable food. They add grain, vegetables, fruits, as well as special feed additives, artificially rich in vitamins, trace elements and biologically active substances.
The composition of the feed directly affects the rate at which the rabbits reach puberty, their reproductive capabilities, the health status of the young and the ability of the body to withstand dangerous infections.
The climatic conditions of our country do not allow animals to give green food all year round. If you are breeding eared pets, then you need to take care of preparing the necessary amount of hay for the rabbit for the winter, using the most suitable grass for this purpose.
We will talk about what hay is best for rabbits and how to properly harvest it in this article.
Hay for rabbits is the main source of fiber, extremely important for the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract of animals without smooth muscles.
Food is moved through the intestines only by absorbing new foods. An adult rabbit can eat plant food for up to 7-8 hours a day.
In the stomach and intestines of an animal, the hay mass thoroughly chewed and moistened with saliva undergoes processing, and the nutrients from it are absorbed by the body.
Cellulose saturation makes dry herbal mixtures stiff and allows rabbits to grind their teeth about them. If you feed your pets exclusively soft food, the molars begin to grow inside the jaw. They can damage the eyes, brain and lead to the death of the animal.
In addition, rabbits love to make nests from hay, and also happily wallow in it.
Hay feed value for rabbits
The nutritional characteristics of this product can vary greatly depending on where and when it was collected, as well as on the composition of its herbs. Meadow grass hay contains about 7-9% protein. This is slightly lower than that of cereals grown on farmers' fields, in which the amount of proteins can reach 14.5%.
The content of raw fat in natural hay does not exceed 4%, and fiber - about 30%. The amount of mineral ash in forest hay can reach 9%, in the meadow - 6-8%, and in the sowing season - about 6%.
The nutritional value of different types of hay ranges from 0.37-0.53 feed units per 1 kg.
When choosing a grass for feeding rabbits, be sure to consider the characteristics of the gastrointestinal tract of these animals. It is best to make a choice in favor of meadow and forest hay.
Useful and harmful for digestion plants
Rabbits are practically omnivorous animals and eat well any hay that you offer them. But, first of all, they will choose grass blades that they like best.
The task of the rabbit breeder is to timely determine the taste preferences of pets and choose the composition of hay with the maximum content of such herbs.
Experts have noticed that hay is best eaten for rabbits, saturated with stems, leaves and buds of dandelion, chamomile, plantain, shepherd's bag, yarrow, wild sorrel, wheatgrass and nettle. If you plan to harvest the product for the winter on your own, then choose the meadows, on the territory of which a large number of these particular herbs grow.
The introduction of hay in the diet of rabbits should be gradual and begin in the late fall. A small amount of dried grass should be added to the green feed. Care should be taken to prevent poisonous plants from entering the mixture, as well as thorns that can damage the animal's esophagus.
The most dangerous for the health of rabbits plants include buttercups, backache, wrestlers (aconites), hellebore, greater celandine, euphorbia, marsh marigold, wild radish and dope.
Straw as an additional feeding
The most nutritious, saturated with vitamins and microelements is hay consisting of meadow-steppe grasses and legume-cereals, mowed before the onset of the flowering period.
When harvesting hay for cattle and goats it is dried, both in the sun and in the shade. The grass prepared for rabbits needs to be dried exclusively under a canopy. It is best to bundle it and hang it under the roof of the utility rooms.
In winter, straw should also be harvested - dried stalks of wheat, rye, barley, oats and other cereals used in industrial plant breeding. Putting straw in the cage for rabbits in the wintertime, you warm the floor and create favorable conditions that allow animals to survive the cold season.
Far from all the straw harvested for the winter is suitable for feeding rabbits, since it contains an insufficient amount of proteins. It is best suited for this well-dried stalks of oats, millet, peas and lentils, which can even become the main animal feed in the absence of meadow hay.
With a lack of solid feed in the spring, the animals, although without much appetite, also eat straw. You can make straw flour from it.
To prepare this product, the straw must be thoroughly ground immediately before feeding the rabbits. It is mixed with succulent feed.
Hay feed rates for rabbits
When harvesting hay and straw, it is necessary to carefully calculate their possible need, taking into account the norms of consumption and unforeseen circumstances associated with periodic prolonged winters.
Rabbit daily need in hay is:
- at the age of 1-3 months - 100 g;
- from 4 to 6 months - 200 g;
- adult animal - 300 g
For an approximate calculation, multiply the daily consumption rate by the estimated number of days of the cold period.
In the conditions of the harsh Russian winter, which lasts 5-6 months, you will need up to 50-60 kg of this product per adult. Given that each rabbit during this time can be crawled 2 times, then do not forget to prepare food for future babies in advance.
If there are no special feeders in the cages, then the consumption of roughage by day will be even higher. Part of the hay will be trampled by animals, and another rabbit can be used to build an individual nest.
According to some farmers, rabbits of any age eat up a day of hay, comparable to the size of their body, but this calculation has no scientific confirmation.
How to harvest hay
After you have decided how many rabbits you plan to leave for the winter, and calculate the approximate animal need for feed, you should proceed to harvesting hay.
For drying mowed grass, it is advisable to make sheds or build pyramids of poles in shaded areas. The grass laid on such constructions dries quickly, without losing nutritional qualities, and rabbits eat it with great pleasure in winter.
As mentioned above, meadow and steppe grasses are best for hay, which did not have time to enter into the flowering period and did not begin to spike.
Rabbits have a very weak gastrointestinal tract and your pets should not be allowed to eat hay and grass covered with mold. All rotted hay must be discarded, dried and used for feeding cattle.
In large rabbit farms, instead of hay, haylage is harvested for the winter - herbal mass, crushed and preserved in hermetic storage facilities, the moisture content of which does not exceed 40%. It is great for winter feeding eared, but at home, such a billet is very expensive and unprofitable.
Hay storage for rabbits
The maximum shelf life of this useful product cannot exceed 1 year. After this time, hay loses most of the vitamins and nutrients. Then it can be used exclusively as a litter.
It is best to hang bundles of mown and dried grass along the inner walls of the rabbit. This will improve the smell in the room and make it easier to control how much a rabbit eats per day.
If you have prepared food for a few dozen or hundreds of rabbits, then it is best to store them in the attic of the shed, going down as needed. In this case, the hay will warm rabbitry, additionally protecting animals from the winter frost.
You can install a pile of harvested product on the street by installing a temporary overhang. But in this case, you need to carefully choose dry grass, making sure that it does not have traces of charms and mold.
It is undesirable to add hay in contact with wet floor in feed of rabbits.
Gradual transition to winter feeding
Autumn transfer of rabbits to food with dry feed should be gradual and last for at least a week. When placing hay in a cage, carefully watch how much a rabbit eats and whether it shows signs of disorder in the digestive system.
With the appearance of even the slightest swelling, it is impractical to keep such an animal further, because it will surely get sick due to the use of uniform food in winter. Translate it to an enhanced diet and after reaching the industrial weight, send it for slaughter.
Try to give hay to pets in small portions, but make sure that it is in the cage all the time. The use of dry grass by rabbits requires that animals have free access to drinking water.
Ushastikam better eat hay in the evening, and in the morning and in the afternoon they can be given cereal or combined mixtures, as well as succulent feed. Excellent results are given by feeding hay when finely chopped cabbage leaves and root vegetables are mixed in it. Tips are looking for in the articles "What kind of cabbage can be given to a rabbit" and "Is it possible to give a rabbit red beets?"
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