Is one nutritionally better than the other or are they basically the same? The KY I'm seeing is super-stemy and the Canadian is softer and lighter. Just don't know if there are folks out there who have an opinion on one over the other or if it's basically what you can get and if your horse will eat it?
Timothy is a cool season grass originally cultivated in NH. Though it is now grown in many parts of the country it doesn’t thrive “south of the Mason - Dixon line”. It does well enough around here SE PA but even better in NY, New England and many parts of Canada. Having spent 20 in Lexington KY I would be hard pressed to remember seeing a great stand of timothy anywhere in my travels. Especially after June. Which is why the majority of hay use in KY along with straw, and grains are imported from other states. Mostly northern. Around here we get at least 3 strong cuttings. Yes, as a rule timothy and or orchard a very similar hay will be at its peak nutritionally at or just past the “boot” stage. Meaning when the seed heads are just starting to emerge from the stem. Due mostly to weather conditions you will be hard pressed to find 1st cutting timothy that doesn’t have well defined seed head in it. Other wise the average person wouldn’t know if it was timothy or orchard. Contrary to popular believe just looking at it and smelling it is not indicative of its nutritional value. The real value can only be had by testing. If any hay comes with a test report make sure it has been calculated for horses and not cattle. It will state it on the report.. KY grown timothy will usually be a lot more “leggy” stemy then its northern grown counter part even when cut at the same time. KY is not a “crop” state by and large due to its rather poor soil and hot humid weather along with long spells of no rain. Timothy requires deep rich sold, decent moisture and reasonably cool growing temps to develop a good leaf to stem ratio. When stressed early by hot humid days, and dry soil the plant goes into survival mode reduces leaf out put and devotes its energy into producing seed pods for its continued survival. Which is what you are describing. That is not to say that there is not northern grown timothy that looks like a bale of sticks out there. This is due to harvesting late but I guarantee you there will still be more leaf in the bale then its southern counter part.
IMO there is some misconception that hay has to be of the highest nutritional quality to be any good. Yes, if that is all a horse is living on but if it is also being feed grain IMO it does not have to be. Save the difference in cost. You don’t want it to be a bale of sticks with little to no leaf, nor moldy, weedy etc. Most horseman that I respect only feed 1st cutting of decent to high quality to their horses in training. They are already getting what they need by and large in their feed bucket. It has a higher fiber content, due to the seeds stalks and coarser leaf. Less likely to get impacted and or colic. After the first cutting of timothy and or orchard all that grows back is leaf. Which is why it is “softer” and can be much richer. But not nearly as much “rough fiber” and is much easier to consume in large quantities. Which can be problematic.
Sorry for the long answer to a short question. But hopefully there was a little educational material in there for you and others.
Short answer, without looking at the two I would always take the Canadian for reasons given above.
Last edited by gumtree; Jul. 6, 2012 at 09:44 PM.
Reason: Corrected spelling of a phase
Having a good friend who planted 400 acres of timothy in Carlisle (KY), I would say that you can be successful with hay here. You just have to know what you're doing, and put a lot of work into it (and pray for weather, same as anywhere).
This state is pretty good at growing grass-- thus the large numbers of high-dollar horses, along with cattle, sheep, and goats. True, the wet Springs and hot/dry Summers can make hay difficult, but it can be done, and can produce hay just as good as anywhere else. I've bought my hay locally for quite some time, and been extremely satisfied; stuff that tests out really well, too, not just judged by the eye (or by my horses' clean stall floors!). But I have some pretty good contacts. I've seen the fields myself, I know they were soil tested, and that the hay was cut at the proper stage of maturity. This year has been a bad year with the drought, and the grass has really suffered, so there probably isn't much good timothy this year...and what was good will be expensive.
Good hay is good hay, no matter where it was grown. But "out of town" hay always sells better...the grass is always greener on the other side. I know a couple feed stores that buy nice local hay and resell it with a "Western" label, for a higher price. If your horses like it and it suits your needs, it doesn't matter much where it came from.
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? Albert Einstein