Hay - Part 4
© 2008 Cherry Hill
a bale of premium hay and one of poor quality, most horsemen would have little
difficulty deciding which bale they would like to take home and feed to their
horses. But since the average bale of hay has one or more defects and because
the hay-buyer's budget enters into the picture, choosing hay, in actuality, is
often not so easy. The many factors which should be considered when selecting
hay all relate directly to the growing and harvesting of the hay. Understanding
the hay-making process from the ground up can help you make wise decisions when
it comes to buying your winter supply of hay.
Good Quality Hay
Good quality hay should
be leafy, fine-stemmed, and adequately but not overly dry. Since two-thirds
of the plant nutrients are in the leaves, the leaf-to-stem ratio should be high.
The hay should not be brittle but instead soft to the touch, with little shattering
of the leaves. Lost leaves mean lost nutrition. There should be no
excessive moisture that could cause overheating and spoilage.
Good quality hay should be free of mold, dust, and weeds and have a bright green
color and a fresh smell. In some instances, placing too much emphasis on
color may be misleading in hay selection. Although the bright green color
indicates a high vitamin A (beta carotene) content, some hays might be somewhat
pale due to bleaching and may still be of good quality. Bleaching is caused
by the interaction of dew or other moisture, the rays of the sun, and high ambient
temperatures. Brown hay, however, indicates a loss of nutrients due to excess
water or heat damage and should be avoided.
Hay which is dusty, moldy, or musty smelling is not suitable for horses.
Not only is it unpalatable, but it can contribute to respiratory diseases.
Moldy hay can also be toxic to horses and may cause colic or abortion. Bales
should not contain undesirable objects or noxious weeds. Check for sticks,
wire, blister beetles, poisonous plants, thistle, or plants with barbed awns such
as foxtail or cheat grass.
premium horse hay involves a valuable balance of knowledge and skill. From
a horseman's standpoint, there's nothing like snipping the strings on a bale mid-winter
and finding soft, green, leafy hay inside. Horses thrive on such hay and
require little grain supplementation. Keep the hay-making process in mind
as you make your hay selection this fall.
1 - Planting
2 - Challenges
3 - Cuttings
Part 4 - Choosing Good Hay
5 - Hay Varieties