The Chronicle of the Horse
MagazineNewsHorse SportsHorse CareCOTH StoreVoicesThe Chronicle UntackedDirectoriesMarketplaceDates & Results
 
Results 1 to 13 of 13
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2009
    Posts
    2,108

    Default Help me learn about hay

    I admit I do not know enough about it to be an educated buyer. We've gotten fairly lucky and have received what I consider good hay a lot of times, but sometimes it's just plain CRAP. What questions should a hay person (farmer?grower?) be able to answer? I've asked what type hay it is before and have gotten answers from "grass" to "well my horses eat it so it doesn't matter". Yes... really. What should I be asking? I have no idea how to go about finding someone who REALLY knows what they're doing (central Indiana) and I feel like I run into backyard clueless cow farmer trying to sell his hay to horses one after another. Help?



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2008
    Posts
    4,208



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec. 13, 1999
    Location
    Greensboro, NC
    Posts
    38,796

    Default

    In addition to those links, contact your local County Extension Agency. Speak to someone who has horses. They should be able to physically show you different types of hay so you can see, feel, smell what good, and bad, hay is like.
    ______________________________
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2009
    Posts
    2,108

    Default

    Thanks for the help!



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov. 16, 2000
    Location
    Concord, NH
    Posts
    5,417

    Default

    The basics are:

    There are 2 types of hay. Grass hay (timothy, orchard grass, bermuda grass etc) and legume hay (alfalfa, clover). Legumes are much richer in nutrients per amount of fibre than grasses. First cut grass hay is often less desirable for horses because it's got more stems than leaves and can be less nutritous if it was not cut very early.

    Many farmers mix the 2 types of forage to get hay that has both lots of nutrients and lots of fiber.

    All hay should smell "fresh". It should never be moldy. Sometimes older hay can get a little bit dusty from being stored in a barn and from the breakdown of the grasses, but any dust should be minimal.

    Hay does not have to be bright green to be nutritious. Grass hay, espeically if it was cut late, will have some beige peices and be a pale almost purplish green.

    Alfalfa does tend to be pretty bright green. It is also denser per flake than grass hay.

    Hay can bleach it if it's stored exposed to light so sometimes the end of a bale is pretty yellow but the inside is a brighter color.

    Bales should be tight but springy - if you drop one from the loft and it lands like a brick it may be moldy or otherwise bad.

    After you've seen and handled lots of hay you'll begin to get a sense of what's good and what's not. But in general it should smell sweet and fresh, be vaguely green and never any mold or dust.

    Also, weeds happen. Most horsess just eat around them.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2003
    Location
    MI USA
    Posts
    8,611

    Default

    We like to stick our hand into the center of a bale, see how hard the stems are. Again, even stems should have some give, not be hard like sticks. Does it hurt to poke your hand, fingers into that stuff? Hard stems make for hard eating to horses. May be a waste of your money, they can't eat that kind of hay. Hard often means hay was baled late in the growth.

    Sounds silly, but new, green corn brooms have a great clean smell, which your good hay should also have. Maybe you could check them out at the store. Stems of broom are still light green, should have a clean, nice hay smell to it when you have your face up close. Green stems are still very flexible, but are dry. Yellow stems-bristles, have no smell, means broom is older, like poor hay. Over dry, yellowish, nutrition is mostly gone, hard to chew. NOT what you want to buy for feeding.

    Do you have any horse friends, where you could go check their hay out? Just looking at a lot of bales can develop your eye. Ask if you can stick your hand into a bale, get the feel of nice stuff or the brittle, poor stuff that pokes the heck out of your hand.

    Alfalfa is very leafy if done right, pretty color, smells good, can be too rich straight, for many horses. I have seen where it would be tasty to ME with just salad dressing on it!! Lots of calories in even small amounts. It is really cow hay, designed for making rich milk, meat on cattle. Sells for premium prices, so farmers plant it over grassy mixes. Most horses don't need those calories.

    Grassy hay is usually lighter weight when picked up, in the same sized bales. Should be mostly soft when you stick your hand into the bales. Farmer did not wait until grass was seeding out with hard stalks to bale it. Again smells good, not very dusty, but not the leaf loss you get with alfalfa when moving bales or flakes.

    Any hay auctions around? They could be a good place to see lots of varieties, good and bad timing on the baling, see what the better stuff is by prices it sells for. Just go and finger lots of stuff to educate yourself.



  7. #7

    Default

    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by dmalbone View Post
    I admit I do not know enough about it to be an educated buyer. We've gotten fairly lucky and have received what I consider good hay a lot of times, but sometimes it's just plain CRAP. What questions should a hay person (farmer?grower?) be able to answer?
    oh Lord...we get some of the craziest questions/comments

    one woman asked a grower up the mountain from us if he had any hay with briers as it "massaged" their gums....and that was a good thing

    we are quizzed on everything from iron level to sugar level to what kind of fertilizer to which variety of seed did we plant,how is it stored,was it cut in the afternoon,what is is the moisture/cp/tdn/rfv/weight, how many bales in a ton,did we use bio diesel in our tractors,do we lime and all of that ends with:

    how cheap can we get it....
    Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
    I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2008
    Posts
    4,208



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep. 18, 2005
    Posts
    2,406

    Default

    When buying hay I usually buy a small load first and try it for a week or so before ordering the full amount. It's better to not be surprised "after" you've filled your loft...

    Also, most farmers I've bought from had no problem letting me open a bale for inspection before I bought quantity.

    Some things I ask the farmer are, what kind of hay it is, when the hay was cut, if there are any weeds or mold in it, and where the field it was cut from is located. Local hay is generally better as your horses diet will remain more consistent.

    If there are weeds, you will need to be able to identify them, or have them identified to be sure they are not potentially harmful. More than one farmer has presented hay containing dogbane for sale... dogbane is a common, highly toxic weed, that can be very difficult to control in the hay field. However some hay people consider it to be safe when it only exists in the bale in very low concentrations. I personally don't want to see it in the hay at all... Some other common weeds to look out for are horsenettle, nightshade, briars, and foxtail.

    As others have stated, it is a good idea to have others show you examples of what good hay looks and smells like.

    To ride well you need to ride with feeling. It's very difficult to describe how to ride with feeling in words. It's something you need to experience in order to learn well.

    The same is true when evaluating hay, you need to be able have enough experience handling different kinds of hay (both good and bad) in order to develop a feeling for when the hay is good or bad.

    I put my nose on every bale as I open it, I feel each flake when I put it in a stall, and I look for any "puff" of white powder that may indicate mold, when I toss a flake on the ground to feed. If something seems "off" when I'm handling hay, I stop and look closer, and in most cases I'll end up tossing out part of, or the whole bale.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec. 18, 2006
    Location
    NY
    Posts
    8,414

    Default

    I am most definitely not an expert but ran into this situation when we first got horses; word of mouth is the best way of finding a good hay grower. I ask everyone I meet where they get their hay and make mental notes (and actual written ones) in case I ever run short or have trouble finding hay. I also like to ask at the vet clinic & the local Agway or feed store; they know everyone and everyone knows them. If someone has hay available, chances are they've called one of those two places or put up a notice.

    Don't forget that 1st cutting is sometimes more desireable than 2nd depending on your horse and their nutritional needs; if my horses at 2nd cutting they'd be fat pigs! Or I'd have to ration it very carefully and I'd rather find good 1st cutting (meaning not as rich as 2nd, but not too stemmy) so they can always have hay in front of them.

    With regard to "horse hay" or "cow hay", I'd be interested to hear the hay experts chime in on this. My father was raised on a dairy farm and in his mind, "cow hay" would be much richer than "horse hay" because of the great nutritional needs of dairy cows in order to produce enough milk. His initial thought of "horse hay" would that it would be less nutritious; granted, he hasn't any horses, but I don't have any cows either for comparison. Anyway, I guess I wouldn't assume "cow hay" is not good enough for horses but maybe someone else can chime in?



  11. #11

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by S1969 View Post

    Anyway, I guess I wouldn't assume "cow hay" is not good enough for horses but maybe someone else can chime in?
    dry dairy "cow " hay or dairy heifer "cow" hay would be less than spectacular for horses as would beef "cow" hay...but weaned calves (dairy or beef) could not do well on dry "cow" hay

    on the other hand,dairy "cow" hay would founder horses out pretty quick if a person was not careful...


    so just like there is more than one kind of "horse" out there,there is also more than one kind of "cow" and their needs all vary

    best
    Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
    I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan. 15, 2004
    Location
    Lancaster, PA, USA
    Posts
    7,951

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by S1969 View Post

    With regard to "horse hay" or "cow hay", I'd be interested to hear the hay experts chime in on this. My father was raised on a dairy farm and in his mind, "cow hay" would be much richer than "horse hay" because of the great nutritional needs of dairy cows in order to produce enough milk. His initial thought of "horse hay" would that it would be less nutritious; granted, he hasn't any horses, but I don't have any cows either for comparison. Anyway, I guess I wouldn't assume "cow hay" is not good enough for horses but maybe someone else can chime in?
    Around here calling slightly off hay (dusty, older, rained on and dried out etc.) is called cow hay because it is intended for dry cows. The milking cows the farmers are fussy what they feed from a nutritional standpoint.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    May. 9, 2008
    Posts
    2,887

    Default

    I was lucky to have been a "hay stalker" before I even had horses so I knew enough to keep me out of trouble. Plus I also knew I would eventually win the horse war with my DH so I insisted we manage the pasture properly with overseeding etc. each year.

    We went from one little horse that couldn't chew hay to also having two biggies on pasture before the first cuttings of the year were ready. The pastures are fairly small so we hay to keep them from being overgrazed. They hay I could get easily and fairly cheaply was crap. Nothing more than a vacant weed field that gets hayed each year. Sorry, but when it comes to you freshly baled all dried out and yellow like straw with huge stalks of noxious weeds in it you run as far away as you can. I don't care how "cheap" it is. I was also worried about it mucking up my gorgeous pastures with noxious weeds.

    Luckily a friend had some lovely grass hay she sold me to hold me over until we could find a supply of good quality hay. A couple of days later I had the vet out for their check up and lo and behold! She had a recommendation for an EXCELLENT supplier. They test each field and are more than happy to open bales and answer any questions. They manage the fields and can visually show you what is in the hay. The kicker? It's only 50 cents a bale more than the crap!

    Talk to your vet, talk to you Co-op extension, talk to your friends. Everyone will have something to offer
    I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

    Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.



Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 147
    Last Post: Dec. 1, 2004, 05:54 PM
  2. Replies: 92
    Last Post: Jan. 22, 2004, 12:09 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
randomness