Hays are grown either Legumes, which are the clovers and alfalfa. These are very high in Vitamin A, Protein, Energy and Calcium. Or the Grass Hays, which include, and are not limited to: Pasture and grasses, Timothy, Orchard grass, Brome grass, Bermuda grass, Rye, Oat, Barley or Prairie Hay, Tall Fescue and Sudan grass hay. Roughages are low in proteins and high in fibers. Do not ever feed Silage nor haylage to horses, as they are processed with mould and substances toxic to horses` systems.
Properly cured/prepared hay will have higher nutrition, with less leaves and less fiber. Hay should never have a moisture content greater than 20 percent. When you examine bales of hay for quality, look for less flowers and blooms (cut after maturity), but plenty of leaves (as this is the highest nutrition location), bright green color, clean smell (no dust or mold scent), clean of debris (cans, branches, poisonous plant stems, blister beetles, etc.). Bales tied with string are generally 65 pounds. Bales bound with wire, are generally 125 pounds.
All hay can be further processed in Cubes and Pellets. The benefit of cubes or pelleted hay is storage, and clean up of feed. Horses do not waste feed, and if traveling, Cubed or Pelleted hay is convenient to carry the necessary amount in a relatively small storage space or area.
Factors affecting the quality of hay is drought, excessive rainfall, fertilization, proper cutting and drying, and baling.
Always remember, that each horse will have a preference to the hay that he or she eats, and horses are very selective and picky over hay and grains that they consume. There is the exception however to every rule. Some horses do fine on an alfalfa only diet, others will be too hot to handle.
An old wife`s tale that has never been proven by Scientists or Veterinarians, is that Alfalfa will burn out the horse`s bladder, kidneys and liver. This simply is not proven to be true.
Next week, Concentrates.
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