It’s often used as animal feed for horses and other animals, but you might not have paid too much attention to what hay actually is.
You may not be aware that there are actually two different types of hay products: hay and haylage. This is such a fundamental part of your horse’s diet, that it’s important to know which will be best for your animal.
So What Is Hay Made Of?
Hay is made out of dried grass, which has been cut and then allowed to dry out so that it can be formed into hay bales. This is then used as animal feed and animal bedding, and is particularly crucial to a horse’s diet.
Other animals such as cattle, goats, sheep, and even domesticated animals such as guinea pigs need to use hay as part of their daily diet.
Hay is often made into round bales or square bales, depending on its intended purpose. This makes it super easy to use as animal fodder during winter time, when other food products are scarce.
Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about hay.
Is Hay Just Dry Grass?
Yes, hay is basically just dry grass. However, it needs to be prepared in a certain way to ensure that it is able to be made into hay.
Hay needs to be cut in the field once the grass has had time to mature. This is then raked into rows, so as to ensure that the hay is able to dry out properly.
This is so that it will be safe for animals to eat. The moisture content of the hay will be essential before baling, as if there is too much moisture present, it could end up going moldy or spoiling entirely.
It is important to note that hay which has a higher moisture content won’t store as well. This will mean it can’t be used as feed for animals, as it could make them very ill. Good quality hay will be around 85% dry matter compared to haylage.
Whereas the removal of moisture is crucial for good quality hay, haylage is reliant on keeping out oxygen from the dried plant matter.
This grass is cut sooner in the season, and then allowed to wilt over a much shorter period of time. Haylage tends to be around 50% to 70% dry matter compared to hay.
What Is The Difference Between Straw And Hay?
The most important thing to note between these two is that hay is a natural plant material that has been intentionally grown as bedding for animals and animal feed,
whereas straw is a natural waste product of the grain crop. Straw is also used as bedding for animals, and can be wonderfully versatile.
Hay and haylage remains quite green in color, whereas straw is a lovely golden color.
Straw is basically the stems left behind when chaff and barley have been processed. This isn’t of the same quality as hay, so generally isn’t used as a food product for animals.
Instead, people will use straw as bedding to give their horses or cattle a comfortable place to sleep.
Can You Make Hay Out Of Any Grass?
Yes, you can certainly make hay with any type of grass, however some grasses are more suitable than others. For example, rye grass and timothy grass are both excellent sources of nutrients for horses.
Other popular types of grass used for hay include Bermuda, orchard grass, and fescue.
Hay can also be made using a mixture of several different types of hay.
However, grass will need to grow to a certain height before it can be transformed into hay. So certain types of grasses which aren’t able to grow as tall won’t be as suitable.
Tall grass is preferred for hay, as it makes it easier to cut, rake, and process into square bales.
Is It Cheaper To Buy Hay Or Make It?
You may be wondering if you can cut down on your usual costs by making your own hay instead of buying it.
However, you will need to consider that you will need to have all the equipment in place to help you do this.
The equipment will include a tractor, a haybine to help you cut the grass, a rake, a baler, and a baleage wrapper if you wanted to create haylage. This baling equipment will be essential to get the job done.
With the vast price tags that this farm equipment comes with, it’s easy to see that buying your hay will actually be cheaper in the long run. It will also take a lot of hard work to produce the hay from your fields to use with your horses or other animals.
Is Hay Or Haylage Better For Horses?
It can be tricky choosing between hay and haylage for your horse. However, out of the two, haylage is closer to your horse’s natural diet. It has a lot more nutritional value for your horse, and a much closer texture to grass.
Haylage is also less dusty than hay, so there’s less need to water it down before you put it in your horse’s hay net.
However, as haylage can often be more expensive, this can encourage equine lovers to opt for hay instead.
It’s worth noting that this is often dustier than haylage, so will need to be watered down before you feed it to your horse. Hay will also store more easily, as it doesn’t need to be wrapped in plastic once it has been produced.
Out of the two, you should weigh up the pros and cons of each and see which best suits your horse’s needs.
Both hay and haylage will help to give your horse the dietary fiber that they need to stay happy and healthy throughout the year.
So there you have it! Hay is simply grass that has been cut and dried, then processed into square bales, rectangular bales, or round bales.
This is then used as animal bedding or animal feed, depending on the animals that it is used for. It is slightly different from haylage, which is harvested earlier in the season, and relies on keeping out oxygen rather than moisture.
Hay is usually cut in the fields, then allowed to dry out so that it has a lower moisture content. This will help to make the hay easier to store before it can be used as animal bedding or animal feed.
Hay is often prepared into round bales or square bales so as to make it easier to store in sheds and the like.
Haylage is cut earlier in the season, and tends to rely on locking out oxygen rather than worrying about the moisture content.
This is often preferred as a horse feed because it has more nutritional value, and is closer to a horse’s natural diet.