What the Hay?
HOW TO BE SURE YOU ARE BUYING
QUALITY HAY FOR YOUR HORSE
Even if you have been buying hay for years, here are some time-tested reminders of what to look for:
- BRIGHT GREEN.
Horse hay should be bright green. Brown hay is probably old or had a problem during the baling process, such as being rained on or being baled in damp conditions. Even if golden brown colored on the outside, when cut open, you should see shades of green.
- SWEET SMELLING.
Good quality hay should smell slightly sweet. An “old” or musty smell generally indicates the presence of mold, which you cannot always see. Again, this happens when the hay was baled too wet or stored improperly. A hay bale that is warm inside is also a sign of moisture and poses the risk of fire due to combustion. Dusty hay can cause breathing problems in some animals. In many cases, the dust is actually mold spores. To distinguish between dusty hay and moldy hay, shake out a flake of hay from the bale. If the dust appears as a grayish-white color, it’s mold. Also, if the flakes are hard or stick together in clumps, the bale has molded.
Leaves are good; stems are bad. Leaves contain most of the nutrition found in hay. Stems are less nutritious and are difficult to digest. High quality hay is fine-stemmed, pliable and full of leaves.
- GRASS HAY. Grass hays (like Timothy or orchard grass) generally provide sound, basic nutrition. The higher the concentration of legumes, such as alfalfa or clover, the higher the energy content. And remember, while high quality alfalfa is generally better than high quality grass hay, good quality grass hay can be better than average quality alfalfa hay – so more expensive does not always mean better.
Ideally, you should have your hay tested. But if that is not really an option, keep the above factors in mind when buying your next load of hay.
If you find that a “bad” load of hay has been delivered to your barn or farm, you should immediately contact the supplier and ask them to pick it up and replace it.
Most reputable feed dealers will be happy to oblige and have a satisfaction-guaranteed policy in place.
If they refuse, you may need to take legal action. This may not seem practical given the amount of money that may be at stake, but the health of your horses or livestock is your foremost concern.
Usually a call or a brief letter from your lawyer will resolve the issue.