Hay Buyer’s Guide

A few things to keep in mind.


The kind of animal you are feeding is the most important factor to consider when purchasing hay.

buyers-guide-home-icons
Color Origin Moisture Integrity

Color

Don’t let color be your only guide. Look at the leaf and stem, and don’t forget to smell the hay!

Origin

Buy from a reputable grower. We don’t recommend that you “experiment” when feeding your valuable animals.

Moisture

Too much moisture cause hay bales to ferment and heat up, which can lead to spontaneous combustion, resulting in fire.

Integrity

Horses generally need better quality hay than cattle, as they cannot tolerate much dust or mold.



Understanding haymaking


When shown a bale of premium quality hay and one of poor quality, most buyers have little difficulty deciding between them. 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 haymaking process from the ground up can help you make wise decisions when choosing the type of 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.

An alfalfa field usually remains in production for four years, but not all years are equally productive. We rotate our hay with other crops, such as corn and wheat. 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. Once it is determined that the hay in the windrow is at the appropriate moisture level, it is baled with the morning dew to help hold the leaves on the stem. Timing is critical. Baling usually takes place in the early morning hours when conditions are optimal.

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.

Premium fine 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. Premium, fine-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.

 

 

Hay grading

horse_tabcow_tabsheep_tab

PREMIUM HORSE HAY – THIS IS OUR BEST.

This summer hay is from the third through seventh cuttings. It’s leafy and small-to-medium stemmed, with a high leaf-to-stem ratio.
Get current prices

HORSE HAY NO. 2

This is the same as Premium Horse Hay, but is baled under dryer baling conditions. Generally, this hay is discounted from the premium grade.
Get current prices

PINTO HORSE HAY

This hay has windrow bleach. This bleaching occurs as the hay is in the windrow prior to baling, and is bleached by the sun. Nutritionally, it is good hay.
Get current prices

PREMIUM COW HAY – THIS IS OUR BEST.

This summer hay is from the third through seventh cuttings. It’s leafy and small-to-medium stemmed, with a high leaf-to-stem ratio.
Get current prices

PREMIUM SHEEP HAY – THIS IS OUR BEST.

This summer hay is from the third through seventh cuttings. It’s leafy and small-to-medium stemmed, with a high leaf-to-stem ratio.
Get current prices