Friday, June 17, 2011

Hay: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

People ask: "What's better; first cut or second cut?" The answer to that question varies according to growing region, weather conditions, type of hay, and type of soil. I like to keep it simple; if it smells sweet, looks green, and the stems are soft and palatable, then it's good hay regardless of anything else.

Your horses are the best indicators of good hay. If they turn their backs on the sweet feed and walk over to eat their hay, you know you've got some excellent hay.

You'll find guidelines below for good, medium, and poor quality hay provided by the University of Maryland Cooperative Extentsion. 


Hay Evaluation Guidelines
  The score sheet below is a guideline for evaluating hay. The sheet indicates the amount of importance

to place upon each quality factor. Note that maturity, at 30 points, is the most important factor.

Leafiness, color, and odor and condition each receive a possible 20 points. Foreign material has a

possible 10 points.

Sample Score Sheet

Possible Score

score given


30 ______

Alfalfa should be cut in the late bud or early bloom stage,

clovers at 20 percent bloom. Most grasses should be

cut in the boot to early heading stage. These stages of

maturity score highest (25 to 30 points). Alfalfa and clover

cut at full bloom and grasses cut between late heading

and full bloom score low (1 to 10 points) because

they have lower feed value.


20 ______

Hay with a high ratio of leaves to stems and a substantial

portion of the leaves attached to stems scores high

(5 to 20 points). Stemmy hay and hay with shattered

leaves score low (0 to 5 points).


20 ______

Hay with a bright green color scores high (15 to 20

points). Golden yellow to yellow hays score 5 to 15

points. Dark brown or black hays score 0 to 5 points.

Odor and Condition

20 ______

Smell of new mown hay scores high (15 to 20 points).

Hays with musty or other off-odors score 5 to 15 points.

Moldy or unusually dusty hays score very low (0 to 5


Foreign Material

10 ______

Hay with noninjurious foreign material should receive a

lower score than that without. Hay with injurious foreign

material should not be fed to animals.

TOTAL 100 ______

Hope this helps. If you have further questions, email me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Peace, Joy, and Dark Days

"Through the days of love and celebration and joy, and through the dark days of mourning - the faithful horse has been with us always."   ~Elizabeth Cotton

Last week was was a tough week emotionally. I won't go into detail. The one, true constant was the horses. They are always there to remind me of  what's really important in life. There seems to be an "other world" spiritual connection when I'm around the power and graceful presence of my horses. All the emotional pain goes away. Balance returns. Peace returns. The world becomes...beautiful.