Choosing The Right Hay For Your Horses

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Horses have different dietary restrictions and needs depending upon their use and purpose. Growing horses need more protein while work horses need a balance of nutrients. These animals can succumb to digestive problems if they eat the wrong diet. Horses are also big eaters, able to consume between 2 and 2.5 percent of their body weight in a day.

Your choice of hay should depend upon the needs of your horses and the demands you place upon them. A dietary routine is best discussed with your veterinarian or horse nutritionist. Following these two tips will help you discern high quality from poor quality hay.

Types of hay

Grasses and legumes are the two primary types of hay. Legumes are higher in energy, calcium, protein, and vitamin A than grasses. Typically, growing and lactating horses need legume hay, whereas grasses are sufficient for most other horses. You may wonder why you would not want to feed all your horses legume hay. The biggest reason is cost. Legume hay can cost up to 20 percent more per year, for each horse, than grass.

How to identify the quality of hay

After you know which type of hay you need, it is time to purchase some. Before your purchase, ask to have some of the bales opened so that you can see inside. Treat the purchase the same as you would a car purchase. Poke around the bales, ask questions, and don’t be afraid of offending someone.

Check the stems of the grass for seed pods, as this will tell you the level of plant maturity. Legume hay should be harvested in early bloom and grass should be harvested before seed heads form. You can check the leaves and flowers for maturity as well. As you look around inside the bales, keep an eye out for dirt, trash, and bug infestations. Also, ask the seller about potential insect infestations in the area, especially blister beetles if you are purchasing alfalfa.

Make sure that the product is green, fine-stemmed, and leafy. The hay should feel soft and be pliable to the touch. Any bale that is sun-bleached, smells moldy, is dusty, is over-cured, or has fermented should be avoided. This hay is low-quality and could harm your horse.

Do not purchase hay that is excessively heavy or feels warm. These are signs that the bale is retaining moisture which can cause mold infestations. A moldy bale can seriously harm your horse’s’ digestive and respiratory systems. Ask about how the bale is being stored. Hay should be in sheltered and dry environments or at the very least, covered.

If you would like to learn more about how to choose the right feed for your horses, contact SB Hay & Feed in Amarillo, Texas. Call us today at (800) 652-3036 or Contact Us by email for more information. We will be happy to answer your questions and help direct you to the right products for your needs. You can also see the hay we have available to buy or sell your own!