How to Choose the Right Hay

A 1,000-pound horse will need at least 20 pounds of roughage each day. Use the following tips from the American Quarter Horse Association to select the best hay for your horse:

1–Open several bales to evaluate the hay inside. Don?t worry about slight discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.

2–Choose hay that is as fine-stemmed, green and leafy as possible, and is soft to the touch.

3–Avoid hay that is over-cured, excessively sun-bleached or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented.

4–Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses.

5–Avoid hay that contains a significant amounts of weeds, dirt or trash.

6–Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease. Check for blister beetles in alfalfa. Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.

7–Reject bales that seem heavy for their size or feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold or spontaneous combustion.

8–Purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to take advantage of its nutritional value.

9–Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover the hay to protect it from the elements.

10–When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage lab to determine its actual nutrient content.

More information on feeding from the American Quarter Horse Association:

Body Condition Score

Senior Horse Strategies

Keeping Senior Studs Healthy

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