If your horse is in livery, it’s likely that his grass arrives in his stable every day without you having to think about it.
The best way to start is to build a relationship with a reliable supplier to ensure you get preference in times of shortage. If buying from a new supplier, do your homework. There are countless stories of buyers who’ve paid upfront for grass that never arrived or bought ‘fresh cuts’ in bulk only to find that half the batch is old stock.
An ethical feed merchant will not mix old bales with fresh stock, or hide mouldy grass under good grass.
- Good grass is soft, green, leafy and free of barky stems and weeds. However, colour is less important than you may realise, and may vary among the different types of grass. Light brown hay is fine as long as it meets all the other criteria. Sun exposure can bleach grass without affecting nutritional value, apart from some loss of vitamin A.
- Aroma is important. It should be fresh and sweet without a musty odour. Greyish-white dust is a sign of mould and should not be fed to horses. Grass that is heat- or water-damaged is at risk of developing mould, so protect your bales when in storage.
Harvest time can affect nutritional value. Legume hay is best cut when plants are in early bloom, while grasses should be cut before seed heads have formed. The nutrition and flavour are held in the leaves, so a good bale will be leafy without seed heads.
- Be on the lookout for rubbish, weeds and other potentially dangerous objects. Wire, sharp branches and rodent carcasses can be baled into your grass, so inspection before feeding is essential.
- Weight may seem desirable, but not if it’s due to abnormal moisture content.
- On the topic of weight, try to be familiar with the weight and size of an average bale – a large, densely packed bale can hold significantly more grass than a smaller, more loosely bound bale.
- Try not to feed grass that has been in storage for over a year
- Avoid price hikes and shortages in winter by buying early in the season.
Text: Brigitte Billings. Photography: Shutterstock
The full article appeared the March 2015 issue of HQ Magazine. In an upcoming issue we will look at the benefits of laboratory sampling and how to ensure optimal nutrient value in your roughage.