Hay There

Ten tips for choosing the best hay for your horse.

Ten tips for choosing the best hay for your horse.

From America’s Horse

A mature horse will eat the equivalent of 2 to 2 ½ percent of its body weight a day. For optimum health, nutritionists recommend at least half of that amount to be roughage, such as hay.

For a 1,000-pound horse, that means at least 20 pounds of roughage each day.

Use the following tips to select the best hay for your horse:

1. Open several bales to evaluate the hay inside. Don’t worry about slight discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.

2. Choose hay that is as fine-stemmed, green and leafy as possible, and is soft to the touch.

3. Avoid hay that is over-cured, excessively sun-bleached or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented.

If you have any HYPP horses in your barn, you will have to avoid certain types of hay. Did you know that diet has a impact on the livelihood of a horse with HYPP? Don’t let any detail fall through the cracks – download AQHA’s HYPP Horse FREE report.

4. Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses.

5. Avoid hay that contains a significant amounts of weeds, dirt or trash.

6. Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease. Check for blister beetles in alfalfa. Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.

7. Reject bales that seem heavy for their size or feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold or spontaneous combustion.

8. Purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to take advantage of its nutritional value.

9. Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover the hay to protect it from the elements.

10. When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage lab to determine its actual nutrient content.

Proper management is extremely important for HYPP horses. The wrong diet can have harmful consequences. Download AQHA’s HYPP Horse FREE report to get a better understanding of these horses’ needs.

16 thoughts on “Hay There”

  1. I have been trying to locate a very specific alfalfa/orchard grass hay. Does anybody have any idea how to locate hay besides the obvious trip to local feed store? There is one feed store near me that carries the hay but their supply is limited and very expensive. I would like to find another source. Any advice? Thanks!

  2. The USDA office that Fred mentioned is probably listed as “Farm Services Agency” (FSA) and usually maintains a list of hay producers. Other sources of contacts would be newspaper ads and other horse owners. I have a neighbor that bales quite a lot of alfalfa/orchard grass hay each summer and I pick it up in the field on the day it is baled (approximately $3.00/bale). Much of the time, I feed the horses a good quality grass hay without the alfalfa. The alfalfa has more protein and calories than many nonworking horses need.

  3. To Sara try Craig’s list. In central California quite a few dealers list their hay so you can go right to the ranch and check out the quality. Orchard grass here usually is hauled in from Oregon–150#bales/$17-20/bale. Good luck

  4. RE: #4 Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses.

    I live in S.CA and have learned the hard way [ie. COLIC] to AVOID 1st and even 2nd cuttings of alfalfa, a legume, because it is too rich/high protein for horses. It is considered cow feed here. Am I misunderstanding what this article is saying?
    Dear author….Please elaborate!

  5. well i bought some grass hay from platteville co. and within 1 week my horse was dead. I had the hay tested and it came back with a high level of selenium. So CSU vet clinic said it was the hay.Does anyone know about this? I have to take the guy to court now since the hay can not be feed to even cows.

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