Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Importance of Alfalfa

Alfalfa, called the "Queen of the Forages," is the fourth most widely grown crop in the United States behind corn, wheat and soybeans and double the cotton acreage. Although there is no published value for alfalfa hay the estimated value is $8.1 billion. There are 23.6 million acres of alfalfa cut for hay with an average yield of 3.35 tons per acre. The estimated value of alfalfa hay is $102.50 per ton. Alfalfa meal and cubes are exported to other countries with a value of $49.4 million to the U.S. economy. Alfalfa is sometimes grown in mixtures with forage grasses and other legumes. The acreage of all hay harvested including alfalfa per year is 60.8 million with an estimated value of $13.4 billion. When the value of alfalfa as a mixture with other forages is considered the acreage and value of hay is approximately equal to wheat and soybeans.

Alfalfa seed is primarily grown in the northwestern areas of the U.S. primarily in the states of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, and Washington. The approximate yield of alfalfa seed in 1999 for the U.S. is 115 million pounds, with average price of $190 per 100 pounds of seed, thus the estimated value of alfalfa seed is $218.5 million. A fringe benefit to the production of alfalfa seed is the production of honey from bees. In the U.S., $147.7 million dollars worth of honey is produced each year.

Alfalfa is also important due to its high biomass production. The record yield of one acre of alfalfa is 10 tons/acre (22 Mg/ha) without irrigation and 24 tons/acre (54Mg/ha) with irrigation. Alfalfa is a widely adapted crop, energy-efficient and an important source of biological nitrogen fixation. The average acre of alfalfa will fix about 200 kg of nitrogen per year, thus reducing the need to apply expensive nitrogen fertilizers.

One of the most important characteristics of alfalfa is it's high nutritional quality as animal feed. Alfalfa contains between 15 to 22% crude protein as well as an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Specifically, alfalfa contains vitamins A, D, E, K, U, C, B1, B2, B6, B12, Niacin, Panthothanic acid, Inocitole, Biotin, and Folic acid. Alfalfa also contains the following minerals: Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Chlorine, Sulfur, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, Iron, Cobalt, Boron, and Molybdenum and trace elements such as Nickel, Lead, Strontium and Palladium. Alfalfa is also directly consumed by humans in the form of alfalfa sprouts. According to the International Sprout Growers there are approximately $250 million dollars worth of sprouts sold in North America. Alfalfa juice is used in some health food products.

Alfalfa hay is used primarily as animal feed for dairy cows but also for horses, beef cattle, sheep, chickens, turkeys and other farm animals. The value of milk, meat, wool and all other animal products is $132 billion, thus the total value of animal products plus the value of hay reach the $145 billion level. This far exceeds the combined value of all other high value crops.

In addition to the traditional uses of alfalfa as an animal feed, alfalfa is beginning to be used as a bio-fuel for the production of electricity, bioremediation of soils with high levels of nitrogen, and as a factory for the production of industrial enzymes such as lignin peroxidase, alpha-amylase, cellulase, and phytase.

An excellent resource of information on alfalfa is the monograph entitled: Alfalfa and Alfalfa Improvement, edited by A.A. Hanson, D. K. Barnes and R.R. Hill, Jr. and published by The American Society of Agronomy, Monograph number 29, published in 1988. ISBN 0-89118-094-X

The statistics which are used were obtained from the 1998 USDA Agriculture Statistics at the website

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The Importance of Timothy Hay

For a variety of small pets, the best diet you can offer them is one rich in Timothy Hay. Dried from a natural, perennial grass, Timothy Hay is inexpensive and healthy. It aids digestion and helps wear down the constantly growing teeth of rabbits and true herbivores, such as chinchillas and guinea pigs.

Rabbits, chinchillas, and guinea pigs should be offered free access to large quantities of fresh timothy hay daily (young animals may have some Alfalfa Hay). Similarly, other small pets, such as hamsters and gerbils, should be given a small handful of hay two or three times a week.

Dietary Benefits of Timothy Hay
ZuPreem Nature's Promise Western Timothy HayTimothy Hay should be an integral part of many small pets' diets. Timothy Hay is very fibrous. Therefore, it is essential for the proper functioning of your small pet's digestive system. As the chewed hay moves through the small and large intestine, the high fiber content aids in the passage of food.

Dental Benefits of Timothy Hay
Timothy Hay should be the main food offered to your rabbit, chinchilla, or guinea pig. As your pet chews this herbivore-favorite food, it wears down and cleans their constantly growing cheek teeth, which are the large grinding teeth in the back of the mouth. To compensate for this wearing, cheek teeth have evolved to grow continuously throughout the animal's life. Therefore, keeping fresh Timothy Hay available to your rabbit or true herbivore small pet is essential to help wear down her teeth. Other chewing items such as chew sticks should also be provided.

The diet of mainly Timothy Hay should be supplemented with fresh vegetables, a small amount of pellets and, of course, fresh water.

Kaytee Alfalfa & Timothy HayAs with most foods, no two hay types are identical in structure and nutrient content. This is especially true for Timothy Hay and Alfalfa Hay. Although both types of hay are frequently sold for small pets, each has its place in your pet's dietary needs and should not be substituted for one or another. Alfalfa Hay is rich in calories and calcium, while timothy hay is less-fattening and has much less calcium. Therefore, during the developmental stages of your rabbit's life or during her pregnancy, for example, Alfalfa Hay can be offered. But once a young animal reaches young adulthood (about 7 months of age in a rabbit), she should be switched to an almost strictly Timothy Hay diet, unless otherwise recommended by your veterinarian due to low body weight.

Because of its versatility as both a dietary food and dental aid, Timothy Hay is a great food source for many small pets.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

My 'Biggest' Lost.....

Today, after the Jumaat prayer, I went to see my bunnies. to my shocking, my biggest and Prime Alpha Buck, James The Chinchilla, died without a cause. This morning it seems okay hopping around in the cage. It dies leaving 5 little bunnies from it seeds. When it dies, it weight 12kg.... what a lost......


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