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Monday, October 8, 2007

Hay Scarcity

I don't know if hay is scarce where you live, but here in the south (particularly North Carolina) I've been hearing stories of horses turned loose because their owners couldn't afford to buy the hay needed to keep them. Of course, no one is buying the abandoned animals, because we've been in such a drought this year that the price of a bale or roll of hay is outrageous- and only going to get worse.

I know from personal experience, the quality of hay to be found here & now is, to be honest, very poor. The last bit we bought has thorns, weeds and even pieces of tomato plant in it, which I do my best to pick out. Everyone is mowing up fields, regardless of their purpose, in hopes of making a profit, or in just keeping enough hay on hand that their livestock can survive the winter.

Luckily for bunny breeders, our animals don't survive mainly on hay. If you find yourself in a bind this winter, know that you're not a bad breeder for not free feeding hay!

Who needs it?

The does who are pregnant. Don't be stingy, make sure they have enough crammed in their box and hanging out in their cage they can make good nests for their young. You don't want to lose the litters because you wanted to save a handful of hay.

The babies. Don't be stingy with your babies either- if you don't give them hay daily, at LEAST give them hay every other day. Enteritis can strike and kill very swiftly. You may even consider giving them less hay, but daily, as opposed to one big clump of it every other day.

Keep a watch on your juniors and non-pregnant adults. If anyone looks like they may be having trouble going to the bathroom, or they develop diarrhea, they need hay and plenty of it! You have to pick your battles- would you rather spend $20 on a bale of hay, or $200 to replace your herd buck who died because he needed it, and you didn't want to "waste" too much of it? This isn't to say they HAVE to have hay every day. We try to feed a big handful of hay every week or two. I have a feeling it may be cut back more this winter.

LEAVES! Yes, you heard me, LEAVES!! With fall approaching, feel free to bag up nice, dry leaves, especially from oak & maple trees. The rabbits consider them great treats, and it works nicely as roughage. A few years ago, around this time, Tim and I were walking around my mom's yard with a trash bag, gathering clean leaves for the rabbits. Make sure you don't pick up any your dog may have pottied on or too close to. Try to avoid any that have been ground into the mud. Don't put wet ones in, it may cause mold! Leaves are free, and will help save you money!

One last thing to remember this winter- if you have hay you need to throw out, because it is old or you're afraid it's been compromised to dampness or mice, don't take it to the dump, throw it out into the woods. It's going to be hard on all animals this year, the wild ones especially. I'm sure the deer and wild rabbits won't mind picking through our leftovers to keep them alive.

Keep's Rabbitry

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