What type of hay is best for our pleasure horses through cold winter months?

Asked January 14, 2017, 12:41 PM EST

We buy local hay from growers in Central Oregon area to feed our horses through the winter but see a number of types or qualities offered. Orchard grass has been our primary selection, but some people have told us Meadow grass would be better. We have seen so much variety in hay quality of supposed orchard grass. What type and variety of local hay would you recommend? What cuttings are best, first season or later? Are there simple tests that might help determine quality or if a product should be passed by ?

Crook County Oregon

1 Response

Your questions are great but the answer depends on the age, condition, health and activity level of your horse. A mature, over weight horse might do well on a lower quality hay like the Meadow hay while a younger horse in training would become too thin and lack energy. Typically, meadow hay is less nutritious than Orchard grass but that also depends on how well the hay is harvested by the farmer, growth stage of the grass and how clean the field is. The best advice is to buy hay from a grower that has a good reputation and have the hay tested so you know it's nutritional content. Always check the hay for dust, mold, weeds or signs of insects. Typically, second and third cuttings have a higher protein content and first cutting has a higher fiber content. As you can tell, feeding horses can be a bit complicated. Below is a link to an excellent article on feeding horses. Also, feel free to email me at scott.duggan@oregonstate.edu. http://extension.psu.edu/animals/equine/news/2013/identifying-the-best-horse-hay#.WH_MFz4mxkE.email.