Hay is a field crop, whether planted or naturally occurring, which has been cut and dried for storage, usually baled, for later use as livestock feed. It includes alfalfa, oats, wheat, timothy, orchard, bermuda, clover, and most any grass, legume or grain grown to feed livestock the whole plant, stalk and seed. Straw is not considered hay because it is stalks only and not grown for feed since it has no nutritional value. Hay can be loose chopped, baled, pelleted or cubed.
Grass is a plant with thin, long leaves growing from top to bottom and includes cereals and bamboos. So grass hay is a livestock feed, usually baled, excluding legumes like alfalfa and clover.
The word “forage” can be a verb as in “Please turn the animals out into the pasture to forage for themselves.” It can also be a noun as in; “Forage should be a horse’s primary feed.” Forage is how animals eat in the wild. To forage is to find edibles wherever they can be found. Forage also means the roughage, (coarse herb cellulose) or non-concentrated feed that herbivores are designed to live on as their primary diet. Grains, molasses and oils are supplements to forage. Herbivores like horses can survive indefinitely on forage alone, (with water). But if too much grain, molasses or other concentrate is eaten within a short period, it can be fatal or cause other problems.
Alfalfa- is a legume meaning that it is related to beans and clover . It is a trifoliaged plant with blue-ish flowers. It is a high calorie and high calcium forage .The cutting we receive is not consistent but we try to get the best available from our local Imperial Valley. The protein content will vary between 13% and 18% . Alfalfa is the highest in calories per lb of all our forages. It is usually not recommended as a sole forage because it is so rich. Alfalfa also has some advantages in being a stomach soother, and it’s coarse stems are valuable roughage for ruminants.
Timothy Hay is a grass hay. It is higher in nutrients and calories than our other grasses. Its color is usually a consistent light green. It is broad long leafed and usually has lots of fuzzy seed heads. It is the preferred forage for rabbits. It’s cellular structure is large and digests easily. It is grown in high elevations such in Nevada, Utah and Oregon. The protein content is usually between 9 and 11.5 percent. It is usually the most expensive because of the transportation and because the 1st cutting is the most desirable.
Orchard Hay is a grass hay. It is between Timothy and Bermuda in calorie content. Its color can range from blue-green to brown re-rake. It is a broad leaf for 2nd and 3rd cuttings, or narrow with seed head for the 1st cutting. It is usually a soft grass hay. It’s cellular structure is large and digests easily. It is best grown in high elevations like Timothy. The protein content ranges around 5 to 9 percent.
Bermuda Hay is a grass hay. It is the lowest in calorie content. It’s a thin, round grass and can be short or long depending on the variety. Its cellular structure is small and tight. It is usually the least expensive grass. It is grown locally in Imperial Valley. The protein content varies between 3 and 7 percent.
We usually do not carry Oat Hay because it is inconsistently available in our area. We do carry Oat Pellets. Oat hay is high in sugar and so tastes good to horses.
We do not carry any mixed hay because they are inconsistent. For example: 1 bale is 20% alfalfa, and 80% Bermuda, the next bale is 60% alfalfa and 40% Bermuda. In this case a sensitive older horse may not be able to accommodate the change in forage without a transition time and could develop abdominal discomfort, known as colic. Horses cannot vomit and so a tummy ache can become deadly. We recommend a combination of hay but mixed at the control of the horse caretaker.