The Feed Labs
@ Western Pro Feeders
Choosing The Right Hay | Part 1
If you’re like us, you’ve heard countless myths surrounding hay, feeding and storage. We’re here to help you sort through the flattened snakes and rats and get to the real, juicy stuff (actually, we hope it’s not juicy, it’s supposed to very dry).
What’s our goal? Well, it’s to pass the maximum amount of nutrients possible from the forage (hay or plant matter), to our animals, safely and cost effectively.
Let’s start from the beginning. What is “Hay?” Hang with me, I promise we’re not getting lost in the weeds. The term “Hay” is thrown around like a smoked turkey leg at the Texas State Fair. Believe it or not, Hay actually has some prerequisites. 1) It must be dried to less than a uniform 20% moisture content. Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean average. That means absolutely, unequivocally, all parts of the hay. The top, bottom, middle, left, right, inside, outside and all other parts must contain less than 20% moisture content. We’ll get into why that’s so important later. Next, it must fall into one of three categories: Grass, Legumes, or Cereals (I was thoroughly disappointed when I learned Captain Crunch didn’t count).
It’s widely agreed on that hay forage, or plant matter, must be the foundation of a horse's diet. What many people don’t know is why. If you look at horses in a pasture, unbothered by humans, we can probably agree that there is a good chance they will be grazing. Well, actually, it’s about a 75% chance. That’s because a horse's digestive system is actually built to be digesting forage 18 hours every day. In more detail, the easily digestible vitamins and nutrients, the “low hanging fruit” in the hay will be absorbed quickly but horses need much more than that. Help me welcome the microorganisms in the large intestine. These fellas depend on fiber from the hay to function properly. They are responsible for continuing to break down and process the hay and maximize the amount of vitamins and nutrients that can be absorbed. This fact alone shows us the importance of consistently allowing our horses access to hay. “But they’ll eat the whole barn if I let them!” Well, you might be right, and thus the importance and value of an efficient, safe hay feeder.
In Part 2, we’ll look at differences in the types of hay and when they are most effective. Later we’ll cover nutrient content, upsides, downfalls and more nitty gritty. Who thought hay could be so captivating?!
We look forward to hearing your thoughts!
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- The Western Pro Feeders Team