Tutorial: How To Select Quality Hay For Horses

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The proper choice of hay is crucial to the health of horses. The horse is a “hindgut fermenter” type of non-ruminant herbivore and has only one stomach, which is relatively small compared to other types of this herbivore. In effect, it is ideal to feed them continuously in small amounts as opposed to giving them 1 to 2 large meals every day. Imagine their natural environment as grazing animals that eat throughout the day. [1]

Hay is the foundation of a horse’s diet. Horses are primarily fed on fibers which come from hays and grasses. Furthermore, hay is considered an excellent sources of vitamins, protein, minerals, energy, and of course, fiber which helps in regulating gut function. [2]

In some cases, processed feeds, in forms of concentrate, can be given to horses as a source of energy and protein. However, problems arise when horses began to depend on processed feeds, thereby resulting to poor forage intake. In effect, colic disorders and other related conditions may develop due to excessive intake of high-starch grains. [3]

On the other hand, wide exposure to early bloom alfalfa may also bring adverse effects to the health of horses that are lightly-used. Horses may overindulge themselves to this hay which may result in weight problems.

This is one of the important reasons why proper choice of feeds, especially hay, is important when raising horses. There are several types of hay which can be fed to horses. These include timothy hay, Bermuda grass hay, oat hay, alfalfa hay, as well as grass and clover hay. However, nutrient value is essential when selecting the type of hay to feed. There are several factors which need to be considered when evaluating the quality of hay to buy.

Some of these factors include the stage when the hay was harvested, number of leaves and stems present, as well as freedom from weeds, molds, and dust. Other factors to check for include color, smell, age, weight and texture. Normally, good quality hay is pale green to pale gold – but note that the interior of the bale, rather than just the outside hay, should be checked out. The hay should also emit a fresh and pleasant aroma. A moldy smell is not good and mold can harm the horse.

In general, it is claimed that hays should be not be fed on horses unless it has been stored for at least a month. Horses become more susceptible to colic when they are fed on fresh hay. [4]

Discover more tips on how to choose high quality hay for your horses. Check this website: http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/forages/publications/ID-190.htm

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equine_nutrition
[2] http://extension.psu.edu/animals/equine/news/2012/buying-hay-the-most-important-ingredient-of-the-horse2019s-diet
[3] http://www.myhorseuniversity.com/resources/eTips/September2011/Didyouknow
[4] http://horsetalk.co.nz/2012/11/04/horse-hay-how-to-identify-the-good-stuff

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