Hay consists mainly of dried grass, but other plants may also be used. The quality of the hay can be estimated using the odor, color and composition:
- Green color and fresh spicy fragrance: this hay only should dry during around 4 days. This contains a high nutritional value, it contains a lot of digestible raw protein and energy.
- Light brown and caramel scent: This hay grew slightly, so it consists of a lower nutritional value.
- Brown / black and a musty smell: this hay was breeding a long time, giving it a brown / black color. Due to the dull smell, the hay has become less appealing to the horse.
- Fine-stalked and leafy: The hay comes from a grassland that is well-fertilized and therefore is full of a high energy and protein content.
- Coarse stalk and fiber rich: In this hay, various crops such as herbs, clover and flowers are often of older grass. This hay consists of a lower energy and protein content than the finely stale and leafy hay.
To determine whether the roughage has the necessary ingredients to suit the horses in the correct ratio, you should be able to analyze the hay. This analysis reveals whether the roughage contains sufficient raw proteins, raw fat, crude fiber, sugar, trace elements and minerals in the correct ratio. Read more about Roughage Analysis.
At the end of June or early July, mowing's mainly started. The grass must be bloomed, as the grass passes through, and ares (seed formation) enter, it is allowed to be mowed. The exact moment depends on different circumstances. The best is to cure with sunny, windy and dry weather as when it is wet, fungus might arise. These fungi might cause toxins such as mycotoxins in the hay. The hay then gets an unspent odor and the horses may get allergies.
Drying, shaking, and weeping
After mowing, the grass must dry two to three days, shaking it with a so-called shaker. It is customary to harvest two cuts per season, the first one around the end of June and the second in August. The grass is dry enough when it has a dry matter (ds) content of more than 80%, thus avoiding hay and fungus. Then, the grass will be wiped so that it will lie in long rows.
Pressing and storing
Hay is usually squeezed in bale, stuck with ropes and stored in a haycake. To maintain the quality it is important that the room is dry and ventilated. Insufficient ventilation and drought might lead to hatching, the temperature may even rise so that it flies into the fire.
Benefits of hay
- It can be slowed down more slowly than silage.
- Hay is often stored without plastic so that the quality is easier to control.
Disadvantages of hay
- Hay that is old, musty and dusty is bad towards the horse's health. The feed value (including the vitamin content) can be significantly reduced when it is older than one year.
- Dusty hay is very detrimental to horses with a dust allergy, and the hay can be immersed during a while in the water . Do not keep this wet hay for too long, it can spoil and the taste does not get better.
- Artificial drying by means of warm air does not have these disadvantages. To read more information about the artificial drying proces, see: Process description Grasdrogeij Hartog