Recent southern transplant from the north and I'm still getting used to the poor quality hay down here.
I have located a solid hay guy that I like, but he only sells coastal bermuda. It's "good" hay (not "good" like my northern timothy, but sigh, I don't have $1k to pay to ship that stuff down here), but I've started having problems keeping weight on all three of my horses. And I have an impaction-prone horse, so I've had to supplement his hay with soaked cubes to prevent impaction caused by the coastal bermuda. Plus, I'm paying $7.50/bale, which appears to be quite expensive around here.
A fellow boarder came up to me and said he has a friend who has a mixed Alicia hay for half the price of my coastal bermuda bales. I have never heard of it, and searching doesn't turn up much. I'm hesitant to switch without doing thorough research (and I will go check out the hay myself, obviously), because I really like my current hay guy and I don't know this boarder enough to entirely trust a recommendation from him.
So I turn to COTH to ask about alicia hay vs. bermuda.
Also, what about bahia? If I'm thinking of switching hay guys, I may as well try to find one that sells bahia as well, just in case I decide to go that route.
I grow both Alicia and coastal bermuda. The difference I can tell you is that Alicia grows better in the cooler temps of spring/early summer. And the coastal does better with hotter temps.
Alicia is a type of bermuda grass, just as Jiggs, the Tiftons,....
My horses and cows have no preference of hay -they eat it all.
In regards to your impaction-prone horse, I would make sure he is drinking plenty of water. And you could make all his meals a slurry.
I would not feed bahia, unless you want bahia in your pastures. My horses don't care for bahia hay.
It appears to be another variety of Bermuda but it is finer (diameter) than Coastal. Not necessarily a better thing. I've been told that bermuda which is cut when shorter is better for the horse but ????
I live in MD and can pick from all types of hay so I have only tried Bermuda once. It was very short and very green, and very palatable to my horses but I won't buy it again.
Thanks for the info about the hay; so the quality is not much different? UGA's ag website says different, but this is all I've been able to find thus far.
Yeah, I force-feed him water with the soaked timothy/alfalfa hay cubes. He was having what I assumed were minor impaction episodes (not eating), which have cleared up since I started feeding him the mash.
Unfortunately the sellers of my property already seeded all of the fields with bahia. My horses pretty much refuse to graze it and actually choose their bermuda hay over grazing, which is a first for sure. But my vet recommended it for the impaction-prone horse, so I thought I'd at least look into it.
If your bahia pastures aren't fertilized, it could be why the horses are thumbing their noses to it. Bahia as a grazing pasture is the most common of the SE pasture grasses.
Bahia does not hold nutrients when cut for hay, so it makes a very poor quality hay and most farmers will not square bale bahia at all.
My horses favorite SE hay of all time was Flora-quirk and I can't find anyone who grows it. Apparently the drying time it requires makes it difficult to cultivate in the SE summers, where you often only have 3 days drying time at most between rain events.
Most places have County Extention Agents who supply the knowledge you are seeking, in La. there are Parish Extention Agents. Get to know yours. Also check with LSU Vet School they are wonderful. Also LSU Ag Center has many informative pamplets on pastures and hay.
The variety of grass the hay is made from is less important than (1) was the pasture fertilized? (2) when was the hay cut? (3) how, and how long has the hay been stored? If possible have the hay tested.
There are several varieties of improved Bahiagrass 'Pensicola' being one. If it is dried and stored correctly most horses find it very palitable. And if it is grown locally the price is quite reasonable.
some folks that might help... www.lasha.org/ www.sedariders.org/
Give your horses some time, they will start eating the bahia grass. The best thing about bahia is that it bounces back from dry times (& droughts) better than common bermuda and coastal bermuda varieties, when we get rain.
Most of my property has bahia grass growing in my pastures. I work very hard at keeping it out of my hay fields.
You may want to give your impaction -prone horse some alfalfa (doesn't have to be much) to encourage water intake & output. and maybe some probiotics for aid in digestion.
I wouldn't let my impaction prone horse near any of that hay. I actually live on the FL/GA line where t&A is about $34 for a 110lb bale. Hay prices are killing me. I thought last year that I had to switch but first I called equine surgeons, Palm Beach Equine Hospital & Univ of FL. Both said NO rather forcefully. Both said that if the horses are raised on the costal hays then they stand a better chance of tolerating them but both said that the northern horses, imported horses, colic prone horses don't do well on them. Now I know that a thousand people will write in & say differently but I trust these surgeons. AND I trust what I personally have seen & heard. My favorite hay that is the southern person's alfalfa is perennial peanut hay. (Has nothing to do with peanuts). Wonderful stuff that is normally less protein than alfalfa, leafy, no colic problems, horses love the stuff & can have it as their primary hay. Check it out & find it. They will love it & it will make them fat & shiny!
I think what Whitfield farm is saying sounds pretty accurate.
I, too, have consulted UF about colic after a bad episode in one of our horses. There are two main factors in colic down here.
1) The length of the cutting. Short, choppy hay is bad because it tends to cause impactions, not just because of how short the stems are but also because when cut hay close to ground here in the south, it picks up a LOT of sand. Find a seller that cuts it long (you'll need to ask around among respected farms and hope they let you in on their supplier). The best way you can tell is if a flake of hay pulled from the bale falls apart easily, it's cut too short and you will likely also have a lot more sand in it.
2) Reoccurring impaction type colics can also be caused by sand in the gut. You must have a sand preventative program in place if you have horses down here. The pastures are sandy, the hay has sand, and, if they shove their hay out of their feeders, they pick up sand from the ground directly. I would do a sand test immediately on your horse and make sure you consult your vet about which sand preventative program to start and what to watch for. A horse with a big load of sand will likely colic during the treatment.
I use hay feeders in their stalls which falls down on rubber mats or shavings. I sweep the stalls out regularly. Try placing a rubber mat beneath your hay feeder and check it after each feeding. You will see the sand.
Good luck! I am from out west and have lived with horses in the northeast and, now, the south as well. The south is the toughest place to keep horses, in my opinion.
Is chasing cattle considered playing with your food?.
Whitfield and microbovine;
Thanks for the recommendations, I too have spoken with trusted boarded surgeon friends and that is why I supplement the horse's diet with soaked timothy/alfalfa cubes. My father harvests hay on his land up in IL so I'm working on having a load shipped down here, but not sure if it's feasible.
We spent 5 years in MN on extremely sandy soil, so I've had a monthly psyllium regimen in place for about a decade. I was extremely surprised to move here and note how sandy the soil is, but have been unable to find the 20lb+ buckets of psyllium pellets at any farm stores. I had to special order it.
In a study done by UF nutritionist who is a noted warmblood breeder, she states that the very best way to move sand from the gut is to be sure your horse consumes at least 2.2% of his body weight in roughage daily. Works better than the psyllium according to the study.
Also, you ought to bring down the good hay from your Dad's. I bet you can sell enough to more than pay for your load. Good luck!
Whitfield Farms, I asked UF about that study and the response was that there was far more research regarding sand preventatives then pushing it out using hay. Again, the type, quality and amount of sand in the hay are big factors. I do both.
Is chasing cattle considered playing with your food?.
The hay harvests in south La have not been great for the last two years so the hay you are seeing may be a result of that. Last year most growers did not get to cut their last cutting and a lot of people are running low on hay right now. The only thing I could find when I checked (my hay guy ran out in January) was not good quality.
There is a hay grower in Southwest La that has some REALLY nice hay. He was at the horse expo in January but I don't remember his name. You might check with the Louisiana Equine Council to see if you can find his name and number. The hay was pricey but was very good quality.
Relating to your pasture, try contacting the forage specialist at the Louisiana Ag. Center, he may be able to give you suggestions about your pasture.