How can you tell whether hay is good quality? Follow our eight-point guide to find out what makes good hay for horses:
The adage “make hay while the sun shines” is completely true. Hay can be easily ruined if it gets wet. Farmers must take advantage of hot, dry, sunny weather to cut and gather hay. Hay that lies cut in a field for a long period of time, particularly if it rains during harvest, leads to mould and/or spores forming that will irritate your horse. We always harvest our hay when the grass has plenty of leaf matter and a prolonged spell of fine sunny weather is forecast.
The hay should be harvested at the right stage to ensure a good leaf to stem ratio. Sugars and nutrients are contained within the leaf matter and fibre within the stems. We have over 50 years experience of cutting grass at the right stage of growth to ensure a premium product.
Although a bale of hay is often a very light greenish colour on the outside, when you break open a bale of hay it should be green in appearance. It should never be brown and definitely not dark brown. If it appears a brown colour it is likely to have been baled before it was dry enough, hay that is baled when it is wet often overheats and discolours.
The hay should be dry. If it feels damp and warm then it is likely that it was baled before it was dry enough. This can lead to overheating and the formation of moulds and spore that will be bad for your horse. We ensure we dry the hay in the field by tedding it enough times then baling it correctly.
Good hay often smells slightly sweet and it should certainly not smell ‘musty’. If it does, it’s a sign that it was not dry enough when baled or not stored correctly.
The hay you feed your horses should be visibly clean and free from dust and mould. Dust at high levels can irritate the respiratory tract of horses. Excessive dust is a sign that it is either several years old or it was too dry when baled as the leaf matter breaks apart forming small fragments of dust.
Hay for your horses needs to be stored correctly in an airy barn with good ventilation. Our new Band-IT packs are stacked in our modern barn protected from rain and the elements with airways between the packs ensuring they get plenty of ventilation and allowing them to ‘breathe’.
The hay you feed your horses should be free from poisonous weeds, such as ragwort, and other contamination like mud, rodents or insects or general
rubbish. We tend to our crop throughout the year to make sure we sell a pure, premium product.