Choose Your Livestock’s Hay Carefully

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Sheep, goats, cattle, and horses are usually fed hay during the winter when fields do not have much for them to forage. Finding variety, quality, and availability of good hay can take up a lot of your time if you do not know how to plan well. Learning about the available types and finding good sources makes your life easier while you wait for spring and its grass filled pastures.

Types of hay

Cereal straw (such as oat hay,) legume, grass, and mixed (legume and grass) are the different types of hay you will have to choose from.

Cereal straw is usually cut while it’s still growing. There is a caution that should be mentioned with this type. If cereal straw has grown after a period of drought, then it should be tested for nitrates before feeding to your animals.

Legume is a good choice if your animals need more nutrition. For example, legume hays have a higher level of vitamin A, calcium, and digestible energy. Alfalfa is a type of legume hay that is fed to animals that need more nutrition. This type may contain up to three times the calcium levels and two times the protein of grass varieties.

Grass hays will vary depending on which part of the country you live in. Orchard grass, brome, or coastal Bermudagrass do better in humid and hotter climates. For this reason, these types are they are found in the central and southern United States. For colder and drier northern climates, Timothy is an early spring grower.

Best types of hay for sheep

Sheep will not eat coarse hay, so you will need to find a leafy option that is fine. “Leafy” alfalfa or immature grass is the best type for feeding your sheep. Lambs should thrive more by eating the young alfalfa hay.

You need to know that these animals will waste much of their food if they are fed on ground that is muddy or wet. If you are feeding sheep on frozen or clean and dry surfaces, you may want to feed any cows you have at the same time. Cows will leave some of the hay that the sheep will then clean up. Feeding the two animals together will reduce the chance of waste.

Goats, hay, and weeds

Mature goats can handle a legume-grass mix. However, kids and lactating does should be fed legume hays made up of one or more of the following types: vetch, soybean, lespedeza, clover, and alfalfa. You do not have to worry if there are weeds in the bales because goats will eat some weeds as they naturally forage.

The hay needs of cows: roughage and nutrition

Most cattle may be able to eat slightly moldy hay that is dusty. If a cow is pregnant, there is a possibility that it will lose the calf if it eats any feed with mold. During colder weather, cattle need a diet with more roughage, so you should feed them more straw and grass types. Dairy cattle need a high nutrient option; a fine alfalfa should take care of their needs.

Grasses and legumes make the best hay for horses

When feeding horses, you should make sure the hay does not contain any mold or dust. This contaminant can cause the animal respiratory problems.

Grass or legume options should meet the nutritional needs of most horses. If you live in a region where a good grass type is hard to find, make sure that your alfalfa hay is selected according to the needs of the age of horse you are feeding. Colts need a leafier type than a mature horse. Alfalfa hay is best for cold weather feed because the horse generates more heat when it digests the protein.

Buying tips for selecting quality hay

You should closely examine the quality of hay you are considering for purchase. You do not want to buy any bales that contain wires, dust, weeds, mold, discoloration due to weathering. You also do not want to buy hay that has been fermented from being wet when cut and stacked.

For more information about selecting hay for your livestock, contact SB Hay & Feed in Amarillo, Texas today. Give us a call at (800) 652-3036 or Contact Us by email. You can also see the bales we have available to buy or sell your own!