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 Making Hay

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Posts : 241
Join date : 2011-06-20
Age : 30
Location : Fredericton

PostSubject: Making Hay   Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:20 pm

I was wondering if someone could explain to me when hay is cut. Ie: 1st and 2nd cuts ect. And why it's done at those times.

I realize weather is an important factor. The hay needs to be dried prior to bailing.

I would assume that grass nutritional value changes with the temperatures?

What would be the nutritional value differences of a field being cut in the summer VS cut and bailed in October?

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Posts : 48
Join date : 2010-10-29
Location : Miramichi, NB

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:44 am

WEATHER WEATHER WEATHER!!! That is the most important factor!!! At home we had a hayfield and depending on the amount of rain/sun etc. we could expect 3 usually 4 cuttings of hay.
A lot of it depends on how dry your fields are (can the tractor get in), what type of "hay" you have as there are a few varieties of grasses that make up "Hay", what stage of bloom they are in, etc.
The first cut usually has weeds in it, and most I find have very tough coarse alfalfa in it, which means that it was a wetter time, and the alfalfa was left to long. If it was cut before the bloom stage, it is usually very good and has a high nutrient value.
The second cut, I think has the lowest protien, mostly because it's growing during the hot temperatures and there are usually more stems than leaves.
Third cut I believe has usually the highest nutritional value, because it's growing during the cooler temperatures, which allows for more leaf growth on the stems.

Then once it's cut and baled, it can loose nutritional value as it sits in the field, gets rained on, poor storage, etc. The best way to check is to have a sample sent away and tested. It's a good idea to do, because around here, there is a lack of selenium, a mineral horses need. However, there is a great danger of having selenium toxicity if they get to much. Testing lets you know how much is in the hay, and then being able to add in safe, appropriate amounts.
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Posts : 716
Join date : 2009-03-31
Age : 58
Location : Possum Critter Farm

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:35 am

I wish there was more emphasis put on the nutritional value of hay. Funny you should bring this up, I was thinking yesterday I would love to have my hay tested for nutritional content. I'm not sure if the Dept of Agr does it or not, I may call them to find out. I read a thread on another forum this week about this

It starts as a discussion about excess iron in hay, and went from there. I think you will find it interesting (I did). Here on PEI it is getting harder and harder to find good square bales of horse hay, everyone is doing round bales. I have to buy 2nd cut for Worthy, but unfortunately Arrow loves it too, so they have to be kept separate for at least part of their feeding, or Worthy doesn't get enough. Our first cut hay off the field and delivered in the hay wagon, $2 a bale, 2nd cut hay, bring it home ourselves, $3 for a small bale. And I have to say, the first cut stuff we got this year is beautiful hay, clean and no dust, which is more than I can say for all the 2nd cut we bought :-(
Interesting subject, and I think overlooked, we take hay for granted, and throw supplements and whatnot at the horses to make up for the shortfalls in their main feed sources....
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Posts : 200
Join date : 2009-10-02

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:43 am

This year we were lucky to get ANY cut. Not a great hay year, lots of dusty bales.... with the way the weather has been going the last few years, this seems to be the norm now. I'd love to get my hay tested, but we have "highland hay", interval hay, mid summer cut, late summer cut, fall cut, not to mention just the variety of the growth in the fields, some are better than others - and I can't always tell which is which. I'm just going to have to play it by ear and keep a close eye on them all.

Our barn when packed to the rafters can hold about 2500 square bales. We had a few left from last year, and put in only 1000 this year. The rest we did in rounds as we didn't have the time/help/weather to do more squares. The late cut (ie baled in sept) actually is some of the nicest hay we got this year. At least with the cows if there is hay not fit for the horses we toss it to them.
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just joan

Posts : 4607
Join date : 2009-03-30
Age : 67

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:44 am

this is a great question for Sexy Dexy........I will pm her and tell her to jump on in.

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Posts : 1307
Join date : 2009-03-30
Age : 42
Location : Debert, NS

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:34 pm

In our area, it is getting more difficult to find high quality 1st cut hay. That is why pretty near all dairy farms opt to do their first cut as silage. Silage requires only 1/2 - 1 day of drying so it can be cut a lot earlier when the spring weather is very unpredictable. It is cut before any of the grasses and legumes are blooming and this is when the optimum amount of nutrients are in the plants. Your % protien can drop 3-5% depending on plant species in a very short period of time, say between boot/early heading stage and late heading stage. That may only be a matter of 5-7 days.

The biggest thing to remember with hay is that the leafier it is the better quality it will be. 60% of your TDN (total digestable nutrients), 70% of the protien and 90% of the vitamins are found in the leaves. As a plant matures it naturally undergoes senescence (dropping of older leaves) as nutrients move towards new growth and eventually to the roots as dormancy begins. With our weather, it is very unlikely to get sufficient drying days in mid June when you would have to cut to stay within that pre bloom stage. If you are specifically looking at feeding a high protien hay to your horses then 2nd or 3rd cut are what you want. The leaf to stem ratio in later cuts is much higher... that's why it is so soft to the touch.

For the average horse, feeding 1st cut is perfectly fine as long as it has been cured properly. In a summer like this past one the people that didn't get their hay cut in late June/early July panicked when the crappy weather started and tried to make it throughout the rest of July and August. A lot of that hay is no good for horses now because there was no way it could cure properly. The best thing to do in weather like that is to wait till late Aug/early Sept. I know it seems really late for first cut, but by that time the grasses have already gone through a natural senescence and the "2nd cut" is growing underneath. Once baled that hay will be quite leafy and green. It will also have the older first growth mixed in which is not a bad thing. This will provide your horses with both good quality grass and a bit of extra fibre. Of course it's not going to have the same %'s as 1st cut made in June but it is 100% better than dusty late July hay. That is how hay was always made before the invention of modern equipment. Farmers did not have the means to condition and ted their hay to make it dry faster. When cut in late Aug the days are usually hotter and drier, hay will dry in 2 days easily.

I know you can have hay tested at the Dept of Agr here in Truro. I can find out the cost if anyone is interested. Since my creatures are not under any kind of work load I do not worry about it too much. If their hay is green, leafy, smells nice and there's no mold or dust, I'm happy :)

Hope that helps.
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Hug a Horse Farm

Posts : 70
Join date : 2011-09-21

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Sun Oct 16, 2011 11:08 am

Great question. One I couldn't find local answers for, so I've been studying up on this topic over the last year.

From my experience, many local people think leafy hay is best but are not aware that high protein and sugar levels can be a concern - they usually go hand in hand.

Beware any hay cut after cold nights as the sugar levels can spike dramatically.

Protein between 8-12% is good - requirements depend on age, weight, use, etc, and quality and digestibility of the protein. I always feed first cut hay - free choice - so protein levels around 7-8 % are fine. At 20 - 25 lbs a day the horse get what they need.

SO many factors affect nutritional values. I bought the same field cut at the same time this year and last year. The 2 tests showed a dramatic difference in some minerals and changes in proteins, sugars, calories, etc.

I get my hay tested by a lab in Calgary. (about $75.00 if you count mailing costs).
This is a HORSE hay test. The lab in Truro does not give information for horse people such as NSC (non-structural carbohydrate - sugar plus starch), NFC (non-fiber carbohydrate), Horse DE (Digestible Energy - in calories).
Nutrilytical's test also measures a wide spectrum of minerals. Major minerals: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium,sodium. And minor minerals: iron, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum.

The thing that is important about the results are the ratios. Pretty much all Eastern hay is high in iron. So you might have a nice amount of copper and zinc, but iron inhibits the uptake of both, so additions are needed.

I also got the test for selenium (by mistake - no charge to me :-). An average size horse needs 2mg per day. 25lbs of my hay provided .3mg. NOT enough to say the least. All the Eastern states and Atlantic Canada have deficiencies of selenium. There are pockets of more, some less.This mineral is also not added in a very high amount in mixed feeds (unless you give the horse too much grain)so special supplement is necessary - especially for breeders.

I have and insulin resistant horse so grain supplements were out of the question.

I searched around and found that ALL the mineral mixes around here have ADDED IRON! Some top dressings were fairly well balanced but not for MY hay. And specialty supplements for hooves were closest but VERY expensive.

So I bought the minerals in big bags (I have enough of most of the minerals to last me a lifetime LOL) and mix my own custom supplement to match my hay. Now I am happy to know exactly what they eat every day is what they need.

If you'd like more information hay testing and balancing (it can really seem a bit overwhelming at first) give me a call (pm for number).

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Posts : 241
Join date : 2011-06-20
Age : 30
Location : Fredericton

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:42 am

Wow! thank you for all of the information.

While we are on this subject, I thought I would ask an equally important question.

My mare has not been on hay since May. She's been on 24/7 turnout in green pasture I've been keeping an eye on her overall condition and feet and luckily she's an easy keeper who has no issues with this.. She's on a pelleted ration balancer as well. Nothing else.

Now, my issue is that winter is aproaching, she isn't "thin" but she's defenitly not going to put on her winter "layer" as I find the grass quite very sparce.... My barn owner thinks there is enough for them but I do not. They are not on the hay now as the barn owner does not want to "run out in spring"

I feel really off about the idea of her picking the short grass that is left.. My barn owner has assured me that what is left is rich and all that they need? I'm not sure how many acres there is but I'd say close to 8 (there is a brook that runs through the pasture a large section is swampy and gross) The horses are not skinny. Willow weighs in around 1250 last I checked (I should check again)
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Join date : 2009-04-03
Age : 35

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Mon Oct 17, 2011 1:07 pm

We started feeding hay around October 1st. I have 4 easy keepers out on about 4 acres of grass. My grass is really, really short and I think whats left is very stressed and high in sugar so not the best for my guys anyway. They still graze right now but are happy to be fed hay, and clean it up so I know they need it. I've learned that if the grass is adequate they won't touch the hay.

Horses don't need a fat layer going into winter. Not skinny, but not fat either. If anything, I think its better for an easy keeper to not be on the layered side if possible (getting weight OFF can be harder then putting weight on). With that said, it is that time to start feeding hay. Fall is here.

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Hug a Horse Farm

Posts : 70
Join date : 2011-09-21

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:07 pm

I can see how this is a concern for you.

The grass has stopped growing - the warm weather doesn't really help when the light levels or so low. Can you entice the BO to put out some hay and see if it gets eaten? Like the last post said, it's a good sign they need it now.

Just since last week, my two come willingly off grass to get their hay - the big sign the pasture is used up.
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Posts : 241
Join date : 2011-06-20
Age : 30
Location : Fredericton

PostSubject: Re: Making Hay   Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:49 pm

When I got to the barn there were flakes of hay up by the gate, the horses ate it up and didn`t leave any. I give my girl some hay everytime she comes in and the other day she didn`t want to leave her box because she hadn`t finished.

I really want her on hay. She was eating it when I got there so that is a good sign. Hopefully its sooner than later
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