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Carb content...which cutting?

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  • Carb content...which cutting?

    Just in general, which cutting of hay has the lowest carb content?

    My horse is currently getting 1st cutting but has gotten a bit pudgy on it. 10y.o. Andalusian/QH mare. 3 years ago when weighed at the vets she weighed in at 1040lbs. This year 1090lbs. She is on a dry lot and she gets approx 15-18lbs a day. Other wise on a vit/min supplement in a handful of Timothy pellets and a serving of ground flax.

    Hay is a grass alfalfa mix and quite variable probably from 70:30 (G:A) to 20:80 (less of this). Most is probably in the lower amount of alfalfa but then you get a bale packed with it. The field was just reseeded 2 years ago and last fall they drilled it with more alfalfa (boo). BO has 3 cuttings from the same field. Irrigated so moisture conditions uniform. I wish the alfalfa content was on the lower side and not so all over the place.
    I know that is calories she doesn't need.

    Just wondering if it is worth it to change which cutting she is getting. She is pretty much off for the winter as I have some health issues to resolve and I would like her to not get too blimpie.

    Thanks, Susan

  • #2
    I think it really depends upon the type of hay and where you are geographically. And don't forget that "carbs" are not the only source of calories in hay. Alfalfa is usually pretty low in "carbs" but has a lot of protein and that's where the extra calories can come from.

    I can only speak for my own hay (orchardgrass) and locale (upper Midwest) but the NSC content varies only slightly between the first and third cuttings, which is normally what I buy. The 1st cutting will be around 10%, the 3rd maybe 12%.

    What *does* vary a lot in my hay is the protein content, usually about 10% in the 1st cut and as high as 16-18% in the 3rd cut! The later cutting is usually MUCH greener and softer and the horses love it. It is about 10-15% higher in calories, usually.

    But in reading comments from people in other parts of the country, the content of nutrients can be completely opposite, with later cuttings being relatively more "nutrient poor".

    So when in doubt, test the hay!
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      All else equal, hay will be lower in NSC when the nights are warm. So, that's typically not a first cutting, BUT, some "first" cuttings are late enough in the Spring that that qualifies.

      Given what you described, she really needs to come off the alfalfa altogether, if that's even remotely an option.
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


      • Original Poster

        Nope...not as long as she is at this barn. They grow all their hay and will not allow any brought in.

        Last year's hay (before they added more alfalfa to the field) was perfect (fat) horse hay. Late, late cut (1st cut in July), stemmy and only about 10-20% alfalfa. She could eat a lot of that (at least 5lbs/day more), spent a lot of time eating as she ate it pretty slowly and her weight stayed very stable.

        I'm pretty sure the main culprit is the alfalfa. The hay in the last month has been lower in alfalfa but it all depends on the bale. Some places it got drilled into the field a little thick. Since I am not going to get a lot of riding in this winter, I have left her au naturale so she has to burn some calories to stay warm. The cold weather just arrived today so let the calorie burning begin. Last week was in the high 60's and low 70's. Crazy for November.

        As I said, I don't know why they added in so much alfalfa. They raise Morgans!



        • #5
          Is there anything preventing you from just cutting back her ration by a couple-three pounds per day? I ask because last year during the drought I couldn't get grass hay for love or money, and was forced to feed overpriced alf to my Arabian fatties. So I shaved'em down from 15 to 12 lbs a day, and they ended up looking better than ever.
          Last edited by The Crone of Cottonmouth County; Nov. 11, 2012, 12:48 PM.
          Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life


          • Original Poster

            Yes, she could be cut down but in Idaho which is still a bit backwards...they are only fed twice a day. I hate to leave her with a less full belly even longer.

            I have tried several iterations of slow feeders and they don't work with the current boarding situation. She gets angry at it and flips all the hay back out the loading hole or they won't be loaded. BO's do not enter pens to feed. Also, the small net slow feeders don't seem to slow her down much with the type of hay that is fed.

            Hopefully in about three weeks, I can get back to riding (I've been off due to surgery). I will watch her weight and I may have to cut her back some more....but I hate to.



            • #7
              Susan, I feel your pain. A similar situation induced me to invest in slow feeders. An imperfect solution, though. Horses are just great big hairy hunks of heartbreak.
              Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life