STOP The Spring Surprise! The Importance of Hay Quality Testing
By Jim Miller, President of Green Mountain Nutritional Services, Inc.
Hay quality changes year-to-year, even if the crop comes from the same fields. Changes occur due to the type of plants present and when it was cut. In addition, spring and summer weather is varies over the years; some years, spring is cool and the plants mature slowly and others, spring is warm and the pants mature rapidly. Sometimes, there is poor hay yield for various reasons including a very cold winters, periodically accompanied by a poor snow cover. The latter could kill some of the plants that would otherwise be protected by a layer of nitrogen containing snowfall. The only way you will know the quality of the hay you are feeding your horses is to test it every year.
The hay test should include protein, fiber, energy, carbohydrates, sugar, starch, fat, lysine, and minerals. A good laboratory is Equi-Analytical in Ithaca, New York.
Once your hay is tested, then you can determine a feeding program based on the age, workload, and weight of your horse (or horses). Green Mountain Nutritional Services in Attica, NY offers guidance in creating feeding programs and supplying equine supplements. The benefits of feeding a balanced diet to horses has immense benefits. It can help prevent hoof problems, joint problems, digestive upsets, lameness, poor coat, fertility problems, and more. Many times, it is easy to mistake a fat horse as an easy keeper. This may not be true. If your feeding program does not balance the protein with the energy you can get an overweight horse, ultimately leading to lack of stamina or loss of power. Remember, a healthy horse is more fun!