Saturday, August 14, 2010

Haynets, grass, hay, haylage, sillage, sun.... come again?

It's that time of year again - harvest time... Although for the horse world the hay was cut a while back.  There's been talk all summer of a hay shortage so it's perhaps more important than ever to think about the choices between different forage.  Before we start worrying about hay and other options we all need some new haynets! Chances are this far into the season hay nets are looking pretty shabby so go and check out equishopping's huge (actually mahusive) range of haynets.  There's also some pretty clever haynets about such as those specifically designed with small holes to slow down horses eating - we all know the type, the ones who eat hay like its milkshake... Hay bags are also becoming popular as they reduce wastage and entertain horses a bit more.

Fo those of you, me very much included, who find filling haynets a total pain how about trying a haynet filler?

Or you could just skip the haynet filling all together and use a Hay Bar.  The other plus side is that the horses stretch their top line, eat in a more natural position and waste less hay .

So where does hay come from?  Hay, haylage and silage start out as very long grass.  The quality of the end product depends on the type of grass hence why hay prices vary so much.  The grass is then cut and left to dry in the sun.  This is where the products split up.  Silage is only left to dry for a short period, one or two days perhaps and then baled.  However, it's very unusual to feed Silage to horses as you risk things like botulism - cows on the other hand can cope.

Haylage is inbetween hay and silage.  It's left to dry for longer than silage but isn't totally dry like hay.  This means you get the best energy to weight ratio.  Hay is left untill it's totally dry.  Hence why you might see the occasional farmer jumping up and down angrily when it starts to rain....

With regards to feeding horses, haylage has more energy in it but is more expensive although you feed less of it than hay.  Haylage is also available from recognised feed manufacturers who use specific grass mixs to achieve quotable nutritional values.  The same cannot be said for hay so its a good plan to get a nutritional analysis done on your hay - most major feed companies will do this for you.

One final thing.  If the predicted hay shortage does happen then the prices are only going to go up - think £5 a bale (bad news) so stacking a barn full (or the garden shed) wouldn't be a bad plan...

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