March 1 2016
Besides water, hay is the most important thing your horse will take into his mouth. So it's crucial that that hay be of the best quality.
But, how do you find it?
Start by using all of your senses.
Does it look good? That nice bright green that is attractive to our eye also means the hay is fresh and full of the vitamins and protein your horse needs for a healthy diet. Although the outside of a hay bale may be bleached and yellow from exposure to sun, the interior should always be green.
Grab a handful of hay and feel it. Does it feel coarse? Are there small twigs or even prickers in it? If it feels bad in your hands just think of how it would feel in your horse's mouth. Good hay is free of extraneous material and has a fine texture, feeling soft in your hands. It should also have a high leaf to stem ratio, as the majority of digestible nutrients are found in the leaf portion of both grass and legume hay.
Take that handful of hay and bring it up to your nose. Breathe in. Does it smell fresh and clean? Or do you detect dust or mold? Obviously, that clean fresh smell is coming from the hay you want your horse to have.
The result of your careful examination when buying hay will be that sound that is music to the ears of all horse lovers: the sound of horses contentedly munching on hay.
Where to Look for Good Hay
A good place to start your search for quality hay is with your county extension agency or state agricultural department. Generally, they know who the hay growers in your area are, and what the quality of each grower's hay is. To insure that you have a good selection of hay, buy early in the season while the crops are being baled.
It's always a good idea to have your hay analyzed. This can be done at your county extension agency as well. Knowing the nutrient profile of the hay will allow you to make smart decisions about what to feed, which will save you money as well as insuring that your horse receives the proper nutrition.
Good hay has a protein value of 9% or higher, which will meet the protein requirements for a variety of horses. Other values you should have analyzed are the Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) which should be at 60% or lower (otherwise your horses will stop eating the hay) and the Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) which should be under 40% to insure high digestibility.
Follow these guidelines for hay and you will have happy, healthy, well-fed horses, with little wastage of hay.
For more information contact: Eastern Hay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845 855 3291 (485 Rt. 22, Pawling, NY).