Quality of Hay
When responsible for feeding your equine partner it is important that whoever is purchasing their hay knows what they are looking for. Different hays will come with different qualities but as a basic rule of thumb, you want to look for color and cut. If the leaves are brown, it is likely to have less nutritional value, as leaves deliver the most nutrients. If it is bright green, it was likely cut at an appropriate time. It was also probably not rained on after cutting, and it dried quickly and was baled in a timely manner. When baled under optimal conditions, most nutrients are well preserved. Yellow, brown, or otherwise faded hay indicates cutting at a mature stage, laid in the field longer to dry, or possibly rained on after being cut in the field. All of which would indicate lost nutrients through leaching by the sun or rain.
Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover
I’m sure you have heard this saying before, and it doesn’t just go for books but for all walks of life. For hay, we are referencing that while the rule of thumb states above the importance of cut and color – this doesn’t always mean the best nutritional benefits. How can this be? Currently, there is a cost influx on components to create fertilizer for hay production. This impacts the quality because the nutrients found in hay are a direct correlation with the fertilizer used to produce it. While this doesn’t mean that the quality is poor. It does mean that while cut at the correct time and producing all visual benefits for a great product you have no true idea what nutritional value it offers until you send it for testing.
Types of Hay
- Alf Alfa
- Reed Canary Grass
- Blue Grama
- Bermuda grass (referred to as coastal)
- Cereal Hay
- Orchardgrass/ alfalfa
Storage for the Forage
Properly cured forage stores well in terms of the major calorie sources but it does suffer some important nutrient losses. The longer it sits around, the greater the loss of some vitamins and minerals. By understanding the deficiencies in older hay you can maintain optimal nutrition for your horse even during the winter months. Common places for hay storage vary by state due to laws. Being from PA I always knew to store forage in the loft atop the barn. However, now living in GA, they do not allow lofts due to the risk of fire in conjunction with our typical weather. Down here you will find storage to be in shipping containers, tractor trailers, or temperature-controlled feed rooms. Be sure to check in on your state’s hay storage laws when building or managing a farm.
Increasing Cost of Hay
A newspaper article on Oregon ag markets reads, “alfalfa is up 58.8 percent in the last 12 months, and all other hay is up 37.7 percent.” With costs on the rise, many are backing out of the mere ownership of horses. This is due to the unexpected hit on their finances that feeding their equine partner has brought. Be sure to take all possibilities of our country’s economical state into consideration before jumping into buying a horse.
Know your way around the feed room to see where you could replenish any missing nutrients if you take a hit from the costs. This could look like more turnout time, if not full turnout time, supplementation of nutrients, or adjusting your forage to be bagged in pellet or cube form. Now, the only form of pellets comes in alfalfa which is not a suitable feed for all horses. Feeding the correct weight in pelleted or cubed alfalfa provides the same nutritional benefits as the baled form. The benefits you lose when feeding pelleted or cubed alfalfa are the natural movements of teeth grinding and due to the easy digestion and consumption of cubes, you lose saliva production, forage time, and optimal stomach protection.
Plant-Based Omega 3
Green grass is the horse’s largest source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. There are moderate amounts of omegas and vitamin E in fresh hay but amounts decline rapidly as it ages. Specific omega requirements for horses have not been fully determined. However, the suggested daily omega-3 supplementation is around 2 to 4 ounces daily. ExcelEQ is a great sustainable source of Omega-3 for your equine partner.