Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hay There- I need your Opinion

Since I am feeding only two horses, which are in my backyard, I only buy about a ton or two of hay at a time. That is what is in my budget and what I have storage for. I have found a few local neighborhoods that have small hay fields and sell it for around $7 a bale.


I have two different types of hay right now and I am wondering if I should continue mixing them or switch over to one or the other.



The first is an alfalfa Orchard grass mix. I don't know the exact percentage I'm guessing 30-50 percent alfalfa. It's pretty green and has some good leafiness. The bales are really light and between the two horses I go through almost a bale a day. I don't like to feed alot of this hay because it seems richer for horses just sitting over the winter and not getting worked.

The other hay is an Orchard grass mix, I'd call it a "local grass hay." The owner told me it had some alfalfa but I don't see it. It got sun bleached after baled so it's pretty dry on the outside, and a little stemmy inside. It is not the best hay. But the bales are big and last longer. I consider this good filler and "munch hay" for cold, wet winter weather.



I feed each horse one flake of the greener and two of the grass, two times a day. They always go for the greener hay first, of course. They will eat the other but leave some and go back to it throughout the day.


You can see My Boy is choosing the greener stuff over the grass hay.

I feed my horses on the ground, and when it is wet and muddy I have two spots that are the "least wet of the wettest." They have a run in shed with footing that stays totally dry year round but I do not feed them in there because it is too small for them to eat in and get along nicely.

My horses don't use their shed very often. You can see "evidence" that they have been in there. When it is raining buckets I don't have sympathy for them when they are standing out in the rain soaking wet far away from their dry shed. I guess you can build it- but that won't necessarily mean they'll come. If it pours for about 24 hours straight they will usually succumb and stand in there together. Its small but they both fit. When Luna was 2 and the only horse in that pasture I'd catch her napping in the shed flat out on her side after breakfast when the sun was shining in it.




Back to my question- should I continue to mix the two types of hay? Or switch entirely to the alfalfa mix? I don't think I'd switch just to the grass only, because of the quality. They also get a pound each of grain supplement at night. My concern about the alfalfa mix alone is that I have to feed more of it to keep them happy and warm in the winter but it might be too rich to do that for horses that aren't getting worked right now.

If you haven't checked out my previous post with the yard sale tack items be sure to check them out! :)

Ranch Girl

14 comments:

Cindy D. said...

I am probably not qualified to answer your question, because I am not any kind of nutritionist. But if it were me, and they were my horses I'd continue mixing the two because that is what I have to feed them, and it seems to be working. The only thing that might make me change my mind on this, is if there is a specific health reason for switching.

Kara said...

I think you should mix it. The stemmy grass hay might not have enough protein in it if fed alone, but combined with the greener hay with some alfalfa in it, they should complement eachother nicely. I also agree that the straight green hay might be too rich for two horses in the winter, but that is why mixing with the "filler" hay is a great idea. You can feed less good stuff, but still give them soemthing else to munch on if they still feel hungry. Of course, unless you actually had your hay tested we can't say for sure what the nutrient composition is, but it's pretty easer to infer...younger leafier hay will have more nutrients and protein than stemmy older day.

fernvalley01 said...

I think you have a good mix going, they don't need the richer hay full time esp when not working. they look good on what you are feeding so I would say stick with what works

Kate said...

If what you're doing is working, and they're not getting overweight - alfalfa is very high in protein and can make horses who don't need it overweight - don't change it.

But that said, you can't say too much about the hay just from appearance - you'd need an analysis of it - your ag extension should be able to refer you to an analysis co - it's sometimes good to know these things.

Laura said...

I wouldn't switch the hay if it is working...like everyone else mentioned.

The only way to know for sure is to have the hay tested. Then you will know the protein, sugar and mineral values. I read somewhere that alfalfa hay is really high in one vitamin/mineral (calcium???), so you need to feed grain that is designed to balance that out. I can't remember the details offhand, but I'm sure you could google it, or call the company that makes your grain - they often have nutritionists available.


Laura said...

Me again...lol I just rememebered where I read a bit of info about hay/grain and ratios...

http://paradigmfarms.blogspot.ca/2014/01/farm-case-study.html

Ranch Girl Diaries said...

Laura Thanks for the link! I wish the hay growers knew the percentages but they are tiny neighborhood fields and I know they hardly know what seed is planted let alone the nutritional content. But trying to get it analyzed would be interesting!

rockinMADranch said...

I can't believe your hay is only $7! I'm paying $15 for grass mix here in Sin City...uuugh

http://rockinmadranch.blogspot.com/

Jan Blawat said...

I have two old geldings that never work anymore. They get straight grass hay except from Dec. through Feb. when they also get some oat hay and a little senior supplement. Their "pasture" is mostly bare dirt. Both of my horses would founder (and have) on what you're feeding yours, and the amount you feed. No alfalfa here, ever! It always amazes me how local requirements are so different. I guess you just continue with whatever works.

SquirrelGurl said...

I would continue to mix.

We had a hay specialist come to our horse management class when I was an undergrad and he said that sun bleached hay has more nutrients "leached" from it than hay that has been rained on before it was baled. He said he personally would always take hay that had been rained on and allowed to dry completely over hay that had been sun bleached.

Before I lost Buttercup, I had her on a grass only diet due to her Cushings. Prior to her diagnosis, while she was still working, she was on a ~30/70 mix of alfalfa/grass and absolutely ballooned up. Her workload was pretty similar to your pair so I would avoid going all alfalfa mix.

Karley said...

I agree to keep doing what you are doing :)

If they aren't working feeding more rich hay wouldn't be something id do and a variety gives them more balance.

Henry gets alfalfa and oat from the barn and I buy grass to supplement his diet.

Ranch Girl Diaries said...

Hay is cheaper from local farms than a feed store. at a feed store here it would be nearly $17-20 bale and like $300 a ton for Timothy or good Orchard! I found a few locals to buy it for $185 a ton. But usually I just do the per bale thing because I can be selective about how much I want to get within my budget.

Gail said...

I'm not really an expert but I would say keep mixing what you have. The green obviously has more nutrients but the other provides roughage. I fed hay and some grain in winter when I had horses but they had lots of grazing even in winter.

I wish I were closer. I'm missing my horses and dream of having another one day.

50+ Horses said...

I'd say keep things as they are; i.e., if it isn't broke, don't fix it. :)