As happy as a pig in Timothy Grass

All grasses are not the same.

The ideal grasss for guinea pigs is a mature one, young (or ‘new’) grass should be fed with caution.

Guinea pigs are naturally designed to graze mature grasses in order to obtain their nutritional needs. They have continually growing teeth that are worn down by the action promoted by grazing grass or eating hay, other vegetable and dry foods do not promote this action. Grasses contain the indigestible fibre needed to keep the gut ‘moving’. Once stopped this can be difficult ‘start again’.

Grass is also a good source of Vitamin D- the sunshine vitamin. Indoor guinea pigs in particular will benefit from a freshly picked mature grass and hay diet. Sunshine doesn’t have to go in through the windows it can, like all vitamins and minerals, go in through the mouth too.

In general grasses contain less Protein than other foodstuffs making them ideal for guinea pig nutrition. There are, of course, stages in the growth of grass where the Protein levels peak. Nutritional values will change throughout the ‘life’ of the grass no matter what the variety.

Timothy Grass: A thick stemmed, broad leafed variety of grass that has solid cat tail tips that are much loved by guinea pigs. Timothy is grown in the UK with the first cut being more fibrous (actual nutritional levels vary from season to season/year to year), it is often a sign that fertiliser has been used if a first and second crop are cut, Timothy is a slow growing grass and it rarely produces a second cut in the UK without the use fertilisers.

Orchard Grass: Nutritionally similar to Timothy, it is a blue green grass with wide blades and broken cat tail tips. If the view of your pasture is important Orchard Grass should be grazed regularly or it will soon clump; however guinea pigs love to ‘tunnel’ in it and lay under and around the clumps.

Oat/wheat/barley Grass: A tall dark green grass with wide blades and oats on the top when mature. A very fibrous grass. The nutritional content of these grasses when fed young/’new’ is quite different from the mature grass, ask for advice on feeding.

Rye Grass: The common grass that is used for fodder to cattle because of the energy and Protein levels. As it is also hard wearing it is commonly found in lawn grass mixes.

Fescues: The Fescues  are the fine leaved varieties for filling in the ‘spaces’ in a lawn mix. Fescues range from fine leaved varieties to broad leaved varieties and are closely related to Rye Grass and are often used in lawn grass seed mixtures.

Because the different grasses provide different levels of vitamins and minerals it is important to feed a variety of hays (dried grasses). When guinea pigs are given an unlimited amount of a variety of hays they will, after time, start to select different hays and grasses and in turn different amounts that will relate, often, to the nutritional value.

Nutrition aside, grass and hay are great boredom breakers for guinea pigs who would spend much of their waking time in the wild grazing mature grasses to obtain the fibre, vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are needed.