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HOW TO: Hay Testing

Updated: Mar 13

Oh, hay - the basis of your horse's diet. But do you know the nutritive content of the hay you're currently feeding?

Factors such as harvesting & storage characteristics, type of plant, and the maturity stage at cutting will impact the nutrient content! In addition, agricultural practices and geographical location can impact soil nutrient profile, which in turn impacts the nutrients in your horse's hay. These factors could ultimately impact the balance of your horse's diet.

Due to the number of factors that can impact a hay's nutrient profile, hay testing can help you optimize your horse's diet.

Benefits of Hay Testing

Ensure Forage Suitability:

  • Forage-based diets have been found to have great health and behavior benefits for all horses, especially performance horses, but forage selection is key to supporting a horse's needs.

  • A hay analysis can ensure that the hay will provide suitable amounts of nutrients to allow them to thrive. In addition, horses with metabolic disorders require low non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) hay, so hay testing can help manage chronic disorders.

Identify Where Supplementation Is Required:

  • Hay should make up a large proportion of your horse's diet, but can also have variable nutrient content.

  • By completing a hay analysis, you can identify where you need to supplement, and eliminate redundant supplementation from your feeding routine.

Troubleshoot Nutritional "Problems":

  • Nutrient imbalances and deficiencies can contribute to common issues such as poor topline, a dull coat, or brittle hoof quality.

  • Identifying these root issues in the diet can be useful in maintaining long-term health.

How to Test Your Hay

1. Sampling:

  • A core sampler is the best way to collect a hay sample that represents your hay.

    • Other sampling methods may over- or under-estimate your hay quality.

  • Take samples from a random array of bales from the same lot (10-20 cores).

  • Most labs request that the sample is around 100-200g.

  • Once collected, it's important to keep the sample out of light & heat.

2. Submission:

  • Fill out a sample submission form.

  • Ensure to request an equine analysis package, as packages meant for other livestock may overestimate nutrient content due to differences in feed utilization.

  • Labeling your sample according to the lab's instructions.

  • Submit your sample for analysis at an agricultural testing lab.

3. Interpretation:

The resulting nutrient report can be interpreted to assess hay suitability and identify where supplementation is required. For instance, low-protein grass hays may not meet the energy and protein requirements of a working horse, when fed at 2.0% BW.

In addition, depending on the mineral content, different levels of mineral supplementation may be required to meet mineral requirements and correct imbalances.

As always, we're here to answer any questions or help connect you with resources in your area! Forage service add-ons are also available for our nutrition consulting services.


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