Bet you never thought much about hay, right? Well, if you’re a farmer, you know all about hay, how it’s made, what its quality indicators are, and so forth. For the rest of us, it can be helpful to have a primer on interesting things about hay you may have never known.
Hay is essentially harvested plant life, such as grass, that has been dried and cured. First, the leaves grow, and then the plant grows a bud, which soon turns into a bloom, which then goes to seed. Farmers cut hay either in the late bud or early blooming time period because that’s when it’s most nutritious and extends the amount of hay you can get per acre.
Hay, Did You Know?
Hay’s fiber content goes up as it grows, yet protein levels drop over time. In order to feed horses quality hay, it has to be free of things like weeds, mold and dust. To achieve this, farmers must cut hay at just the right time, which is usually after a recent dry and warm stretch of weather. In the field, it’s then left to dry out before being baled for storage and use. There are many different kinds of hay in the U.S. that make great horse feed, from timothy and alfalfa to oat and fescue. Clover, rye, orchard, and coastal hay round out the list of popular varieties.
Hay can be categorized into legumes and grasses. Depending on the season, different hays are used and can be further classified into cold-season and warm-season varieties. Cereal grain hays, higher in nitrate levels, are another option, and these range from wheat and rye to barley and oat. Horses can get sick if they eat too many nitrates, though, so it’s always important to test the hay beforehand. If you feed horses good-quality hay, they will get all the vitamins and nutrients they need to survive and thrive. A healthy mix of grass and legume hay is the best option for horse feed.
Indicators of Quality
There are several tell-take signs that alert you to the quality of a particular batch of hay. Color is a big factor. If your hay is green, it likely is high in protein and vitamins, although it may also be high in nitrates. Beige-colored hay will have sat in the sun awhile and it may also indicate it was rained on before being baled. Dark brown hay indicates heat damage after being baled wet, perhaps after it had been rained on heavily for some time. This is generally an indicator of low-quality hay, and it may contain mold.
Other factors that may affect the quality of hay include forage variety, fertility of the surrounding soil, plant maturity come harvest time and storage method, says the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Hay production and efficiency can be boosted over time by paying attention to the soil fertility and harvesting in a timely manner.
This article was written by David Aguinaldo, a student of agriculture who hopes to help you understand farming better. He recommends that you sell hay online at Hay for Sale if your have a surplus of hay in order to get the most value.