To properly evaluate hay quality with the naked eye, open up several bales. Generally we look at the outside of a hay bale but when it comes to hay, knowing what’s on the inside is what counts the most.
Hay should be leafy, fine stemmed, and green. It should be soft to the touch and without seeding. Look for signs of bug infestation; especially blister beetles in alfalfa. If a bale is heavy for its size or warm to the touch do not accept it. It probably contains too much water which can lead to mold or spontaneous combustion.
Hay loses nutritional value over time. Be sure to purchase and feed hay within one year of harvest. If you are purchasing a large quantity of hay consider having it tested for nutritional value prior to purchase or look for a hay suppler who has already had this done.
Both soaking and cooking hay will reduce dust, but there are added benefits to steam cooking hay. Hay that is soaked leaches vital nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and magnesium. With steam cooking the lose of vital nutrients is virtually non-existent.
Additionally, cooking kills mold and fungal spores which cause respiratory problems. Soaking hay enlarges the spores which makes them less likely to inhale but it does not kill them.
Steam cooking also works to kill many other living bacterial species that result in horse related illnesses.
As a general rule, a horse’s diet should consist of 50% fiber by weight. Most of this fiber is delivered by way of hay or grass. There are alternatives such as beat pulp, hay cubes, and horse feeds engineered as complete feeds.
No, soaking beat pulp is not necessary prior to feeding. Studies indicate there are no ill effects of feeding dehydrated (dry) beat pulp. If you have an older horse or a horse with poor teeth, soaking prior to feeding will make it easier to chew.
Yes. Horses that are fed alfalfa have a tendency to drink more water. As a result, horses being fed this high protein and mineral rich legume have wetter stalls. Keeping these stalls dry and ammonia-free may mean you are spending additional money on bedding and labor. If you would like to consider switching from feeding alfalfa to feeding a grass or partial grass-hay diet, Mid-Rivers would be happy to assist you in developing, and transitioning to a balanced grass-hay feeding program.
When determining how much hay to feed your horse consider these guidelines: An adult performance horse’s diet should consist of at least 50% hay. This is equivalent to 10 pounds of hay for a 1000 pound horse. Determining a horse’s nutritional needs beyond hay will depend on its age, activity level, special health needs, and genetics.
Mid-Rivers can help you evaluate these external factors and create a balanced diet that helps maximizes your horse’s performance. If you would like us to perform a nutritional screening and develop a balanced diet for your performance or trail horse please contact us at 636.332.5373 and request an appointment with Dr. Mrad.