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Forage experts chime in please!

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  • Forage experts chime in please!

    Next week we are cutting and baling our back 50 acre pasture. It is a mixture of rye and purple vetch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Vetch). There is also about 10 acres of oat that have not turned yet and will be baled as oat hay vs being harvested.

    I have had a heck of a time finding info about vetch and horses. Some of my horses have been out on the field for a few months and have been doing well. I'm not sure how much of the vetch they have been eating but I have been watching them closely and they are in good weight without being too fat.

    Will the vetch/rye hay be suitable for horses? I am planning on having it forage tested but I'm curious to see what people have experienced. I don't have to keep it, I can sell it and buy coastal but if the nutrition content is similar to alfalfa (it is a legume) and it's safe to feed as hay I am tempted to keep it.

    What about the oat hay? I have never fed oat hay. What is it similar to?

    Visit us: www.integritysporthorses.com
    High quality retirement boarding: www.flattireranchtx.com

  • #2
    I too searched for info on Vetch one year and could find next to nothing. I purchased some mixed Vetch hay from a local guy who said he had quite a few horse customers. We were suffering a severe hay shortage that year and so I chanced it and found it to be excellent hay. My horses loved it and did well on it. I can't say for sure it was Purple Vetch though, he only referred to it as Vetch.

    ETA: My memory is slowly being jogged here. I believe Purple Vetch is toxic to livestock, specifically horses. I think it's Hairy Vetch that you can feed as hay. I found this article just now as I was trying to remember the Vetch variety I had purchased years back. Article
    Susan N.

    Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.


    • Original Poster

      I am going to have to do some more research. I googled hairy vetch and that is exactly what ours looks like so I may be confused about the name.
      Visit us: www.integritysporthorses.com
      High quality retirement boarding: www.flattireranchtx.com


      • #4
        I sent a PM to Tamara, our resident hay authority on the board. Maybe she can give us some good info.
        Susan N.

        Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.


        • #5
          hi there

          well what you have a totally unsellable hay but not an unedible hay.

          Vetch is a plant that cannot be tedded out to dry it as all the tiny leaves (where the value of the plant lies) would be knocked of and then you are left with stems which are not worth anything and looks and tastes like serica.

          The Rye (both rye grass and small grain types) will give you some off the scale haylage and baleage but there is a fine line (in the dried hay product) between the high NSC number and a plant so yellow,old and coarse you won't feed it for fear the neighbors see you ;>

          as for the Oat hay: again a wonderful feeding hay cut early...you need to use a conditioner to take the wax off the stems and you can ted it.

          It's down side is it really does take a 3 second moisture tester to help put it up given its stem and diameter....once over dry it will go a bit yellow though horses really don't seem to mind that color like they mind it in the mix mentioned above.And it will yellow in storage in a heartbeat so again you can't use it as a sales hay.

          Last edited by Tamara in TN; Apr. 22, 2012, 12:59 PM.
          Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
          I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


          • #6
            Huh. Our horses, when I was a kid, ate "local hay" which consisted of native grasses, whatever pasture mix was overseeded on the fields, clover (again, native) and purple vetch--it grew/grows everywhere here. You could clearly see the vetch in the flakes, and my pony really loved it both fresh and in the hay. Some horses seek it out to eat where it grows along our fence lines, some don't. It seemed to keep its leaves in our hay. Maybe it is a different variety??

            I haven't bought any local hay in years, but the hay field across the road from us has plenty of vetch in it (along with tansy and daisies, but that's another story).
            Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


            • #7
              Originally posted by Calvincrowe View Post
              Some horses seek it out to eat where it grows along our fence lines, some don't. It seemed to keep its leaves in our hay. Maybe it is a different variety??

              it will depend on your climate....if your hay requires tedding to help it dry properly then vetch is not for you....if you live in a place where you lay three days in a strong wind (think Dakotas) then vetch would make a great dry hay. It's just all about the leaf retention
              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
                Tamara-- ok, that makes more sense. We don't have to battle high humidity here when we make hay, so that might help. I'm not hay farmer, so I love to read anything you post. You've given me a great free education over the years--thank you!
                Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                • #9
                  How good is Rye hay anyway - out of curiosity. Locally someone is haying Rye with some coastal (but they said some cold nights recently really did a number on the coastal element). It's only $6/bale so half of what we were paying recently.


                  • #10
                    I have fed rye and coastal here and there. I have always been told that rye is a little less nutritious and more should be fed. However, my horses seemed to do just fine on their normal amounts in the past. I've also bought straight rye and although I've never had any tested, one year it was obvious that it had a high sugar content, my horses thought it was candy.
                    Susan N.

                    Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.