We’ve all been there, you’re a new horse owner and the first thing your horse needs is hay. You head to the feed store, load up on some bales of hay only to realize that this stuff isn’t cheap!
To save money and ensure my horses are getting what they need I have compiled a list of 10 tips for buying the best quality hay.
The horse’s diet should be healthy and nutritious. Mature horses need to eat about 2-2.5% of their body weight each day, which for a 1,000 pound animal is 10 pounds of roughage per day (equivalent to the average intake). Roughages are generally divided into two categories: legumes or grasses; with alfalfa being one example that has more protein than regular hay does.
Some things you should know include – What type of grasses are in it? Is it weed free? How long has it been sitting out? Has it ever seen rain (this will make wet spots)? Does it crumble easily when touched with your hand or does it have leaves mixed in?
Horses need a variety of nutritious foods for optimum health, but hay is the staple diet.
There are many types available that vary in quality and nutritional content depending on their intended use: young horses need more concentrated feed with high protein levels while adult horses can get by on lower-quality food as long they have access to fresh water.
10 Tips for Choosing the Best Horse Hay
Tip 1 – The exterior of the bales may look less appealing, but it’s what is inside that counts. Open a few to check for consistency and don’t worry about small discolorations from hay piled onto each other or rainwater.
Tip 2 – The hay you feed to your horses should be high-quality and soft. Fine-stemmed, green, and leafy are ideal qualities in a good quality hay; it should be soft enough that you can feel the leaves with your fingers but not so much as they fall out of each other’s grasp like sand which would result in wasted food due to lack of chewing ability.
It might seem trivial at first glance or even downright boring – but understanding how different types of hays affect horses’ stomachs will ultimately ensure better nutrition while avoiding excess waste.
Tip 3 – The hay that you choose should be fresh, and it is important to know when the plants were harvested. The leaves can indicate maturity level and whether or not fertilizers have been used on them.
Mature hay has a golden color while immature will still show traces of green in some areas; grasses that are at their early bloom stage produce lush foliage with many flowers; legume hays typically flower later than other types so they must be examined carefully for condition before purchasing
Tip 4 – Horses can be picky eaters so it is important to find what they like. The hay you feed your horse should be weed-free, dirt- and trash-free. “Treating a horse’s mouth is no easy feat“.
Tip 5 – When you’re looking to purchase hay for your horses, be sure it’s of the highest quality. Lower-quality hay might seem cheaper in the short run but will end up costing more when your animals don’t eat all of their food and leave waste on the ground that requires much more time and effort from yourself and staff members to clean up! Investing in a higher grade means less wasted feed which saves you money over time as well as happier horses who enjoy an appropriate diet tailored just for them.
There are a few different ways to tell if there is an issue with your hay. First, check the strands of alfalfa for any signs that may point towards blister beetles coming in contact and infesting what might be otherwise well-preserved plants. Secondly, since we can’t examine everything ourselves at once it’s important to ask the growers about any risks as they have often been in the business far longer.
Tip 6 – Always use care when handling bales of hay. Be wary if the weight feels out-of-the-ordinary for its size or, worse yet, it is warm to your touch? If so, you could be dealing with excess moisture that will eventually lead to mold.
Tip 7 – Having a hay-buying strategy is important, but it’s hard to plan for the unpredictable. Be prepared to be flexible and keep an eye on how much feed you will need when you get less rain than usual. These situations are there so that you can prepare ahead of time instead of being caught out.
Tip 8 – Keep hay dry and mold-free, store it in an area that the rain never reaches. If you have to stack your bales of hay outside or if there is a lot of snow on top of them, cover them with tarps so they don’t get wet when precipitation falls from overhead clouds. Check periodically for signs of fungus that could be growing under all this protection by opening up one side the tarp just enough to see inside without tearing anything apart.
Tip 9 – Hay that has been harvested and stored for more than a year is not as nutritious as fresh hay, so buy your hay within a12 month period.
Tip 10 – Hay can be harvested at different stages of development, and this will affect the nutritional value. It is important to examine the hay for signs indicating how mature it is before deciding which kind you want.
Have a look at the leaves and flowers when determining how mature it is!