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environmental hoofprint
grey and dark if there are a lot of toxins,
but the hay may look a brighter green.
How “Green” is Your Hay?
ood hay brokers and growers are
looking for ways to keep prices
down and quality up. If growers, brokers
Your horse’s main diet may look green, but if it’s grown
and horse owners network together to
secure a good source of hay, then the
in toxic soils, how “green” is it?
risk of growing hay is shared by grower
and user. Some people are contracting
by mary ann simonds
directly with the grower, specifying the
ith less good agricultural natural green. If it looks chalky or green type of hay and level of fertilizing they
land available each year, poor with some grey to whitish color, it could will accept. Others are working with
soils needing more fertilizers, be from the salts or toxins of the fertilizers more educated hay brokers who can
and the demand for hay increasing, leaching out or a form of mold. look for specific types of hay to meet
the main diet for horses is at risk of their clients’ demands. Special hay
contamination. hay growers are not Fresh natural grasses and legumes will products, like low sugar hays, which
required to tell you how much fertilizers have a soft, pleasant smell. Over fertilized may mean rained-on and dried hay,
or how many unlisted contaminants hay will not have much smell at all. would usually be sold as erosion bales or
were applied to the fields. Sometimes hay is salted to dry up any for processed feed. but if a hay grower
rain if it was put up too wet, so make has a buyer looking for low sugar hay,
A good hay grower will periodically sure your horse is not just interested in then he can bale and deliver.
test the soils, balance the ph and apply the salt taste. Taste it yourself; chew on a
organic or pure fertilizers to ensure a piece and spit it out and determine what Feeding more natural and better quality
healthy soil for hay. hay growers using the dominant flavors are. It should taste hay may reduce the supplements that
poor or toxic soils will apply a large dose like something you would find pleasing have to be added to your horse’s diet.
of fertilizer to “green up” the hay and if you ate grasses. It should not taste salty With shipping and fuel costs on the
often get 2-3 cuttings of hay by over- or metallic. rise and less available lands for growing
fertilizing. The soft green hay may look hay, many growers are opting for large
good, but it probably will not smell bales and processed feeds. The solution
good. your horse may eat it because he S
oak a small flake of hay in warm
water for 10-15 minutes. If the hay is for people at all levels, from grower to
has no choice; over-fertilized or toxic is good, it will smell sweet and the water horse owner, to become more educated
hay can, at a minimum, give your horse may have a little dust in it, but it will on good natural hay. It is not always the
soft, runny manure and increase its risk be a light-medium brown. If the hay green stuff.
of ailments related to digestion, heart is heavily fertilized or has a number of
Mary Ann Simonds is an equine and range
function, skin, and soundness. toxins in it, the water will be dark brown
ecologist and the director of the Equestrian
to black. you can even take a cap full
Science and Whole Horse Institute, offering
HAY TEST of chlorine bleach and add it to a large
educational courses and clinics.
esting for toxins, sugar, carbs, fat bucket of water and repeat the hay test. or contact Mary Ann
and protein is desirable; many good chloride is an ion that binds with many directly at or
feed stores or hay growers may do this. heavy metals, so the water will look very
If you are unsure about your hay, take
a core sample to an agricultural lab for
A home test is not so sophisticated, but
still will help you determine if your hay
is fresh and natural:
Natural grown hay will often look less
green than people want it to look. The
natural life cycle of the plant is not to Become knowledgeable about where and how your hay is grown. Just
stay green year round. Nutrients are tied because the feed store carries nice looking green hay, do not assume
to life cycle, soil and seasons, not just to it is good for your horse. Ask if it has been tested. Ask how much and
fertilizers. Know what the grass looks what kind of fertilizer was used on the hay. If you suspect you have
like growing in the field; it should look toxic hay, you can have it tested by agricultural laboratories.
similar in a bale. Any hay should look a
| holistic horse™ • February/march 2010 • Vol.16, Issue 65
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