Feeding Hay
Some people feed hay year-round.

Hay is known as forage. It’s a combination of dried grass and plants. When grass isn’t available, most horse owners turn to feeding hay. This could be through the winter months or if your pastures aren’t lush. It’s important you know how to feed it correctly. Check out these frequently asked questions.

How much hay does your horse need?

They should be eating one to two percent of their total body weight in forage. As a starting point, a 1,000 pound horse should be eating at least ten pounds of hay a day.

What are the different types of hay?

There are grass and legume hays. Alfalfa is a popular legume hay. It contains two to three times more calcium and protein compared to grass hays. While it’s more expensive, this hay is helpful for young, growing horses and lactating mares.

Typical grass hays include timothy or orchard. Timothy is an easy crop to grow and it matures quickly. Some horse owners may prefer a mix of grass and legume hay.

What does good quality hay look like?

Your hay should be green, not yellow or brown. There shouldn’t be any signs of mold. The hay will smell slightly sweet and have a high leaf to stem ratio. When you drop the hay a dust cloud shouldn’t form.

What cutting is best?

You’ll have to decide between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cutting. Most horse owners will try to get 2nd cutting hay. It tends to be greener, more nutritious, and have less weeds. However, this isn’t always the case. Evaluate the hay carefully no matter what cutting it is.

How long can hay be stored?

Under the right conditions, hay can be stored for two to three years. However, each year the nutritional value will go down.

What is an ideal moisture level?

The moisture level should be between 15 and 18 percent. Higher levels can cause heat and mold growth.

What causes hay prices to fluctuate?

Weather conditions, the time of year, and the cutting can all impact prices. Extreme drought, very wet seasons, and high humidity can cause prices to jump.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when evaluating quality or how much to feed. It can be tricky feeding hay at first, but in time you’ll be a pro!