Besides pasture, hay is a predominant part of a horse’s diet. During a particular period, especially winter, hay is the only forage available for horses to eat. Therefore, selecting the right type is the most important part of formulating a horse’s diet. Horses grazing on poor-quality pasture need hay to treat any deficiency or acquire essential supplements.
The most common types of hay consumed by horses are Wheaten, Timothy, Oaten, and Meadow. All these hay types are equally good providing different nutrients. Today, we will be discussing Meadow Hay and how it is beneficial for horses. This commonly used hay checks all the boxes for being a perfect forage.
It is also essential to identify good hay from bad ones as you would not want to fork out good cash for bad hay. Moldy or rumpty Meadow hay fails to provide the real nutritional value that a horse needs. Most horse owners stock Meadow hay by the end of the summer to go through the winter.
What is Meadow Hay?
There are multiple grass species available within these different types of forages. Meadow hay is harvested from permanent pasture and contains a variety of grasses with all the essential nutrients.
It is not easy to assess the nutrients levels as the said hay is a mixture of different grass species. The nutrients levels depend on the grass combination that exists in the mixture.
Therefore, it is advised to get it tested first before feeding to starch/sugar intolerant horses.
Even though it is difficult to estimate sugar + starch content, another estimation with protein and potassium levels is quite easy.
These nutrients levels are generally higher in the younger shoot or immature plants whereas lower in the later or mature stage.
How is Meadow Hay Different Than Other Hay Types?
It is mainly a combination of stemmed pasture grasses. It is leafier and has an overall soft texture than Timothy and other hay types.
Most types of hay consist of grass only with no additional plants or flowers. Meadow contains dandelions, daisies, and thistles.
It is also possible to buy Meadow hay with dandelions or other herbs from the feed store.
Most hay types are limited to livestock only whereas Meadow is equally loved by guinea pigs and rabbits. It is given as an occasional treat or a supplemental feed.
It is softer which makes it better for bedding and forage. However, it is not consistent in content like Timothy and others.
It is because not all Meadow hays are created equal, therefore, nutrients levels may vary slightly.
What Animals Can Eat Meadow Hay?
It is no secret that Meadow is an essential part of the horse’s feed regimen. Horse owners include different types of hay in horses’ diets to keep them healthy. Besides horses, other livestock like cattle, sheep, goats, camels can benefit from this hay.
This fibrous forage is also safe for smaller animals to eat. It is given to guinea pigs and rabbits occasionally for different purposes.
It provides fiber, protein, and calcium to rabbits and should make up to 80% of the diet. Along with Timothy, it has been an important part of Guinea Pigs’ diet as well.
Pros And Cons Of Meadow Hay for Horses
All types of hay have their advantages and disadvantages, so does the Meadow Hay. Before buying Meadow, it is important to know where it came from and what it includes.
When buying it for horses, purchase from a horse feed store as they know the requirements of a horse. Here are some of the pros and cons of feeding Meadow Hay.
Affordable – Buying different types of hay as a regular feed can be quite expensive. That’s why most horse owners opt for pasture grazing. However, in winter, it becomes necessary to buy hay, so, if you buy bales of Meadow in bulk for winter, a horse owner will get it at an affordable price.
Diversity – Meadow is made up of several types of grass to bring a variety of texture and flavor. It is a delicious recipe with all the right ingredients. With a wide range of flavors, it is tastier than most grasses.
Inclusion of Debris and Other Plants – It can include different plants, weeds, and debris since it is a combination of different grasses. Often, different herbs are also included. So, a horse owner needs to go through the ingredients first to make sure that it does not have anything the horse is allergic to.
Content Inconsistency – Most horse owners shy away from feeding Meadow hay to horses because of the content inconsistency. Other hay types have predetermined ingredients and nutrients levels as compared to Meadow.
How Much Meadow Hay Do Horses Need?
Meadow is generic hay that provides vital fiber for digestive health and lots of chewing opportunities to keep open-rooted teeth in good health. A continual supply of good quality Meadow hay flake with food pellets, freshwater, and other forage would not hurt the horse. Keep monitoring the quantity and horse’s health as you start feeding Meadow hay.
Identifying the Good Quality Meadow Hay
Pay attention to the following aspects to ensure that you are getting good-quality hay.
Leaf Content – The higher the lead content, the more nutritious the hay is. Look for a leafy meadow, early crop cut, or immature seed heads as it is considered best by the experts.
Color – Meadow hay with pale green to pale gold leaves are usually the best. Inspect the hay color on the inside of the bale rather than focusing on the outside as the outer part could be bleached from the sun.
Moisture Content – The moisture content of baled Meadow hay is about 16%. Check for mold, dark coloration, or musty odor before buying.
Weight – The bale with moisture content would be heavy whereas too-dried hay would be lighter. Look for the perfect balance.
It is hard to pick one from different types of hay as all of them play an important role in a horse’s diet. Meadow, being affordable, is preferred by most horse owners with a limited budget.
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