Whether you have horses, cattle, sheep, goats or other livestock, good quality hay is an essential part of their diet, and it is important to choose only the best hay to feed your animals.
Why Good Hay Matters
Depending on the animal, hay can make up 50 percent or more of its daily diet, and in winter, most grazing animals consume even more hay because their access to adequate pasture is restricted. The nutrition from hay is vital to keep the animal healthy, and to protect its digestive health. Poor quality hay could lead not only to digestive trouble, but also respiratory problems or toxic contamination. Animals are less likely to eat bad hay, and could begin to lose weight and be more vulnerable to other illnesses or infections if their diet is inadequate. Good hay, on the other hand, can help keep animals healthy and fit even during harsh winters or other poor conditions.
Types of Hay
There are different types of hay and forage, including grass, legume and cereal grain hays, as well as mixed hays that contain different proportions of grasses and legumes. A high leaf content is best, as leaves have much better nutrition than stalks. Alfalfa and clover hays are the most popular options, and are available in a variety of different blends.
Hay quality can vary in different ways, including not only the overall composition of the hay, but also due to…
- Dust content – less dust is always preferable to minimize respiratory problems
- Cutting time – when the hay is harvested will affect its nutritional content
- Growing conditions – droughts or floods affect how hay grows and its overall quality
- Nitrate levels – nitrates can be highly toxic and the best hay will have none
Hay should always be closely inspected, and different tests and analyses can provide a thorough overview of hay's nutritional content and quality.
The Best Hay for Your Animals
Different animals require different types of hay for their best dietary choices. A dairy cow, for example, will need richer, more nutritious hay with a higher leaf content to help milk production, while horses can thrive on hays that have higher grass content and more coarse material. Smaller animals, such as sheep and goats, prefer finer hay that is more comfortable in their smaller mouths. When choosing the best hay for different livestock, consider not only the type of animal, but also…
- Nutritional needs, such as different needs for pregnant or nursing livestock
- Age and growth rates that may require feed adjustments for the best health
- Other dietary sources, such as the quality and quantity of pasture or supplements
No matter what hay is chosen for different livestock, it should be as high quality as possible, with no signs of mold, mildew or insect infestation that could make it less palatable. Choosing the best feed will help all livestock healthy, and hay is a crucial part of that diet.