Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

HELLO WEEKEND: Judging Hay Quality

Hay is the common part of your horse’s diet, so judging the hay quality on visual inspection is very important if lab analysis is not available.  Here are some simple things to look for.

horse forage

Most people check for colour and smell.  Hay should be bright green and smell slightly sweet.  Acrid or musty smells generally indicate the presence of mold.

Another sign of good hay is the leaf:stem ratio.  The more leaves, the better as most of the nutrition is stored in the leaves.  Hay that has too many hard woody stems may be difficult to digest.  Even if it is cheaper, most horses will pick through the hay and leave the stems behind and that will cost you more in the long run.  High quality hay is fine stemmed, pliable and full of leaves.

Type of hay is another factor.  Grass hays, such as timothy or orchard grass generally provide basic nutrition.  The higher the concentration le legumes, alfalfa or clover, the higher the energy content.  High wuality alfalfa is generally better than high quality grass hay, but good quality grass hay can be better than average quality alfalfa hay.

Always ask if the hay has been tested.  If not, have the hay tested.  This may not be practical for every load, but if your hay source is consistent from load to load, this may be a good option to get a general idea of the nutrient value of the hay.

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1 Comment»

  kimgivemeahorse wrote @

Very good tips!


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