Hay Quality for Horses

Hay all across America is being improved to accommodate cattle but presents challenges to our equine friends. The problem is a high SUGAR content which will cause founder and obesity.

Some hay farmers are using liquid chicken manure on hay fields. This practice of growing hay will expose our horses to deadly bacteria like salmonella. This type of hay is more of a threat than grain (protein).

Basics of Horse Pasture Management
harrowing to break up manure and kill off the parasites by exposing them to the sun
getting rid of weeds as soon as possible or they will destroy the proper growth rotation of horses
fertilize with manure and an application of commercial fertilizer and suitable seed

combination of legumes and grasses
grasses offer a high matter intake and earlier spring and later fall grazing than legumes
legumes develop a thick turf which discourages weeds and are higher in protein and minerals and provide higher production
grasses reduce digestive upsets

always test the soil prior to planting the seeds
legumes and grasses extract water, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium out of the soil
an application of commercial fertilizer will be required even though the manure will give back some of the above-noted minerals

do not graze horses until new growth is about 10cm (3.94 inches) high. If the length is lower than 5cm (1.97 inches) do not graze horses.

control fence line weeds by cutting or spraying
persistent weeds such as buttercup may need to be sprayed with a herbicide.

expose the parasites and their eggs to the heat of the sun by harrowing or dragging the pasture
the best program for parasite control is an integrated approach of properly timed harrowing and manure removal.

Water Control
drain the water from the pasture as this is a mosquito and weed haven

horses are very selective in what they eat, hence, alfalfa hay is well accepted by horses
when fed on the ground, 25% of the nutrients are ground into the dirt
alfalfa hay is one of the best sources of protein. A good protein is then turned into energy for our equine partners
second cut hay of pure alfalfa has protein levels exceeding 18%.
if your horse has kidney problems it may have difficulty excreting the higher levels of nitrogen found in alfalfa.

Grass Hay
generally consists of one or more of Timothy, bromegrass, fescue, (I have fed fescue myself and it caused diarrhea in my horse), perennial rye, Kentucky bluegrass and orchard grass
timothy is the traditional grass of horses and is easy to cure
fescues have seed-borne fungus which can extend gestation length of pregnant mares which will result in weak and dying foals.
bluegrasses have shallow root development and therefore, have poor growth in the heat

As horse owners we need to know:
the different grasses and legumes
when a hay is high or low in protein and energy
which hay should be fed to young growing horses and which hay should be fed to the non-active pleasure horse
good indications of quality are NOT if the hay is free from dust and is green in color