Hay barns with cows grazing in front.
Hay Grading & Buying Tips

Hay Grading

    It's summer hay from the 3rd through 7th cuttings. It's leafy and small-to-medium stemmed, with a high leaf-to-stem ratio.
    This is the same as Premium Horse Hay, but is baled under dryer baling conditions. Generally, this hay is discounted from the Premium Grade.
    This hay has windrow bleach. This bleaching occurs as the hay is in the windrow prior to baling, and is bleached by the sun. The hay on the bottom side of the windrow is unbleached. After the hay is baled, it has streaks or stripes of bright green and light green. We call it pinto because it has color variations like a pinto horse. The only thing wrong with this hay is its color fault. Nutritionally, it is good hay.
    We do not recommend or guarantee this hay for horses. It has usually been rained on while in the windrow and could likely mold. This is a good, cheap feed for cattle.

Hay Buying Tips

  • The most important factor to consider when purchasing hay is the kind of animal you will be feeding.
  • Horses generally need better quality hay than cattle, as they cannot tolerate much dust or mold.
  • Don't let color be your only guide. Look at the leaf and stem, and don't forget, smell the hay!
  • Buy from a reputable grower. We don't recommend that you "experiment" when feeding your valuable animals.
  • Be a responsible consumer. Look the hay over and feel free to ask questions.
  • Don't look for bargains and quality at the same time! Hay is usually priced pretty consistently within the region. Remember, you get what you pay for.
Understanding Hay Making

When shown a bale of premium hay and one of poor quality, most buyers would have little difficulty deciding which bale they want. However, since the average bale of hay has one or more defects, and because the hay buyer's budget enters into the picture, choosing hay is not that easy. Understanding the hay making process from the ground up can help you make wise decisions when choosing hay to purchase.

Making premium hay is both an art and a science. While much of the success depends on such technical factors as seed selection, fertilization, irrigation and pest control, the critical scheduling of when to cut and bale sometimes requires a sixth sense. Luck, especially with the weather, also plays a big part in making hay.

The alfalfa field usually remains in production for four years, but not all years are equally productive. Hay is most always rotated with other crops, such as corn and cotton. This has a rejuvenating effect, as the alfalfa puts necessary nitrogen back into the soil.

Ideally, alfalfa should be cut just prior to flowering, or at the pre-bloom state. Once cut, the hay dries in the windrow until the moisture is out of the stem. Raking or turning the hay in the windrow rolls the hay at the bottom of the pile to the top. This facilitates consistent drying of the hay. Once it is determined that the hay in the windrow is at the appropriate moisture level, the hay is baled with the morning dew to help hold the leaves on the stem. This is usually in the early morning hours when baling conditions are optimum. Timing is critical.

If the bales contain too much moisture, they can ferment and create heat. This heat is sometimes great enough to result in spontaneous combustion, causing a stack to catch fire. Although combustion is rare, it is highly recommended that hay be stored with adequate ventilation and away from buildings or homes.

The hay is checked continually during the baling process to ensure that moisture levels are safe but not overly dry.

Good quality hay should be leafy, small stemmed, and adequately but not overly dry. Because the majority of nutrients are in the leaves, the leaf-to-stem ratio should be high. Good quality hay should be free of mold, dust, and weeds, and have bright green color and a fresh smell. Placing to much emphasis on color, however, may be misleading in hay selection. Some hay can be lighter in color due to bleaching, but is still good quality. Bleaching has many causes, but is mostly due to to dew's interaction with the rays of the sun, and high temperatures.

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The Accomazzo family farm and Estrella Mountains.