While a variety of livestock are fed hay, it isn’t something everyone knows a lot about. In fact, there are many misconceptions about hay. These include what is the best type of hay to feed animals and if certain types of hay are dangerous to animals.
To begin with, there isn’t a best type of hay. Hay quality is ultimately a matter of proper management and harvesting. Any species or variety of hay, therefore, could be considered superior to others but using a certain type of hay is no guarantee when it comes to quality.
Another misconception about hay is that round bales are inferior and may be more likely to contain botulism. Although round bales are often stored outside, which can expose them to moisture (in which the botulin bacterium thrives), covering bales and exercising common sense in not feeding livestock moldy hay is sufficient to protect livestock from contracting botulism. Likewise, hay quality cannot be distinguished based on color. So merely saying that green hay is superior to brown hay would be inaccurate. Hay must be tested to assess its quality, as hay quality does not affect color, nor does color affect quality.
Another common misconception is that hay that has been rained on should not be used as livestock feed. Whether or not hay that has been exposed to rain should be fed to livestock needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Usually, if hay has only recently been rained on, there should only be a minimal drop in quality. This does not mean that one should haphazardly ignore any possible repercussions of hay that has been exposed to a great deal of moisture. It is still important to examine the hay for mold or dust, which are more likely to be present if hay has been exposed to precipitation.
Many people wonder if horses and cattle require different quality of hay. In general, horses digest hay less efficiently than cattle, so cattle will generally respond to lower-quality hay better than horses. However, this should not be taken as a rule of thumb, and cattle should not be given lower-quality hay, without considering other factors such as cattle’s workload and current health. For example, when it comes to an inactive horse and a lactating cow, the cow will require higher-quality hay. On the other hand, a racehorse will need high-quality hay, but a non-pregnant cow will do fine with lower-quality hay.