Selecting Hay forage for your horse..

Sometimes it seems that the more we know, the more there is to know.  It’s a double-edged sword!  I’m saying this a little tongue-in-cheek as I truly believe the more informed one is the better one can care for their horse, or anything else for that matter.

Have you considered the hay your horse is being fed?  Here is some food for thought  ;o) …

As the ground from which a plant grows will influence its nutritional makeup, a hay’s nutrition will vary depending upon where it was grown.  Other factors such as the type (grass or legume) and variety of hay, environmental stress factors, and also when the grass or legume is harvested will influence your hay’s nutritive values.  Therefore a nutritional analysis of your specific hay supply is important.  As one IR horse owner wrote in..  “all hays should be analyzed to make sure you are meeting your horses needs. It is not expensive to have done, and the benefits may be huge if not even life saving!”.

Here are some informative articles on Hay:

Hay Analysis: Its importance & Interpretation

Selecting Quality Hay for Horses

All About Hay

This link has in-depth information on various feeds..

Here is a general nutritional comparison of a few varieties of hay:

Table 1: Typical nutrient content of hays fed to horses (as fed basis).
Hay Variety Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb) Total Digestible Nutrients (%) Crude Protein (%) Calcium (%) Phosphorus (%)
Alfalfa 0.8 to 1.1 48 to 55 15 to 20 0.9 to 1.5 0.2 to 0.35
Red Clover 0.8 to 1.1 46 to 52 13 to 16 0.8 to 1.5 0.2 to 0.35
Orchardgrass 0.7 to 1.0 42 to 50 7 to 11 0.3 to 0.5 0.2 to 0.35
Timothy 0.7 to 1.0 42 to 50 7 to 11 0.3 to 0.5 0.2 to 0.35
Bermudagrass 0.7 to 1.0 42 to 50 6 to 11 0.25 to 0.4 0.15 to 0.3
Tall Fescue 0.6 to 0.9 40 to 48 5 to 9 0.3 to 0.5 0.2 to 0.35
Sources: National Research Council, 1989; UK Equine Nutrition Program, 1999.

And what about forage for the growing number of insulin resistant horses?

Here is an informative article that discusses the factors that affect a hay’s NSC levels.

Some varieties of warm climate Grass Hay are commonly used in these cases (as cold climate grasses contain higher sugar levels).

There is also a new hay on the market called TEFF Hay that is a Lower NSC hay (often testing less than 10% for non-structural carbohydrates but this can vary).  Horses seem to like it;  often picky horses will love Teff!  It helps keep weight on while providing higher relative nutrition without making horses “hot”.  Being a warm-weather grass crop, Teff typically has fewer sugars than that of a cold-weather crop such as an orchard or a timothy crop would have.  Relative Feed Values (RFV) are also proved to be higher in Teff hay meaning higher quality, better intake, higher digestibility, and fewer additional  needs  to supplement the diet of the horse.

A great resource:

Finally, this page has a compilation of various hay analyses listed from all over the US by different individuals.

I hope this article has provided you with some helpful resources.

Wishing vibrant health for your equine partner.


Just Equus


About justequus

I'm a horse lover and energy healer. I am an architect and now focus my creative energies on the direct experience of Spirit, Healing, Energy Healing, and in particular for the benefit of horses & animals!
This entry was posted in Hay Forage, Holistic, Horse Health & Healing, Nutrition and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Selecting Hay forage for your horse..

  1. Suzanne says:

    I like to feed a variety of hay, especially in the winter time when the pastures are more dormant. For example, right now I’m feeding Meadow grass, orchard grass and Timothy. And I’m lucky in that my hay supplier tests all his hay because I want to avoid high sugars because of my laminitis prone mare (but she may not be any longer because of a program of Chinese herbs, but that’s another story!).

    I sure know what you mean, Karen, about the more you know, the more you need to know. I have really learned that while keeping horses at home!

    • justequus says:

      Hi Suzanne! I’m sure you have researched this thoroughly for your horses since you run your own barn. Could you share what your thinking was behind your planting menu? Hope you and your horses are enjoying 2011 so far! Karen

  2. Polly & Keno says:

    I have been feeding TEFF hay for over a year and my “special needs” insulin resistant horses are doing GREAT on it. However, I want to stress that I have learned the HARD way just how important mineral balancing is for hay fed horses. My horse’s coat and hooves were not looking healthy so I had my hay analyzed to determine what it STILL needs to make a balanced ration. I have learned that although my hay is low in sugar and starch all hays ideally should be custom supplemented.

    My hay tested with ample protein, but also tested high in iron which means I must supplement even MORE than the average supplement offers to bring the other trace minerals into balance! That is critical, as without the balance in our horses diet, health, hooves, coat will all decline.

    I buy and mix specific calculated amounts of additional calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, iodine, vitamin E, etc. to balance my hay. There is NO supplement premade that will completely meet my horse’s dietary needs.

    After countless hours of reading, however, I did find one supplement that comes the closest to the special blend “MY” horses need. It is the Horsetech – Arizona Copper Complete. It is formulated for the SW hays, like the hay from the Imperial Valley area where my hay comes from.

    I plan on using it as a handy premade back up supplement in case I run low on my custom mix or for when I need to have pet sitters feed for me in emergencies. I just want stress again, that all hays should be analyzed to make sure you are meeting your horses needs. It is not expensive to have done, and the benefits may be huge if not even life saving!

    I hope by sharing our story we can help others avoid going through what my horse and I have had to deal with. :>)

  3. Corey Katz says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. After seeing how Dani almost took your hand off for a bite of for that TEFF Hay… I’m sold on the palatable quality of it 🙂
    Great Hay Info!

  4. Polly & Keno says:

    Keno and I are smiling that we could be of some help on this subject!
    With the use of the Grande slow hay net to control volume, I have him moving from assorted feeders all dayFREE feeding on TEFF now. The increased movement along with the addition of the balanced trace minerals in rinsed, soaked rinsed loose beet pulp, he is doing better than ever now. Karen’s Grande slow net allows him to graze more like a horse should! One day I will post a before and after illness video for you so you can see just how much better! 🙂

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