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Don’t Invite the Neighbors—Avoiding Wildlife and Rodent Damage A problem that might not be apparent until aſt er your hay is stored


is the damage that can be done by rodents and larger wildlife like deer. Rats, mice and their kin can soil or shred the hay as they eat and make homes, and chew strings that cause broken bales and diffi cult handling. Keeping these small vermin out of hay storage areas is tricky. Ro- dents don’t seem as likely to chew plastic twine, although the type of twine probably won’t be a signifi cant factor when choosing quality hay. In some areas, larger wildlife is a problem.


During the winter months, when snow cover makes foraging more diffi cult, deer and elk may help themselves to hay stored outdoors. Some of us may be delighted to have these visitors, but many can only aff ord to feed so many mouths! To thwart their foraging eff orts, surround your hay with six-foot-high mesh fencing (expensive) or strands of electric fencing (cheaper). Other options include securely wrapping the stack with a tarp, woven mesh or geo-textile fabric.


Organize Your Storage Can you feed two-, three-year-old or even older hay? “Yes,” says


T unes, “but some vitamins will be deteriorated. Nutrients like beta carotene, that turns into vita- min A, will decrease, and if you’ve got a lot of older hay, testing is important so you can supplement your horse’s diet accordingly.” To avoid feeding old hay, you should use the


guideline “fi rst in, fi rst out.” T is may mean ar- ranging your stack so you can access the back of your storage or moving the old hay so that new hay can be stacked behind it.


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Red clover can produce yields of high- quality forage comparable to alfalfa. T is legume maintains high forage nutritive val- ue until about 40-50% of the stems bloom and can be harvested for hay or grazed at that time. It is most oſt en grown and baled with grasses. Photo by Lesley Ann Bryant


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What’s On Your Hay? Most of us feel it’s important to watch what we eat, and we’re


very concerned about consuming food additives. T is concern also extends to our horses. When we go to the feed store, we’re likely to read feedbag labels and look askance at anything that appears to be a preservative we wouldn’t want in our own food. But should we be concerned about what’s been sprayed on our


horse’s hay? It’s not unusual for fi elds to be sprayed with “bio-solids,” receive over-spray from pesticides applied to other crops and perhaps most commonly, for cut hay to be sprayed with conditioners. In many areas of North America, get ing hay off at the right time,


at the right moisture levels is tricky. High humidity can mean hay can take days to dry, sometimes never reaching the optimum moisture level for safe baling. To counteract this diffi culty, many growers spray their hay with conditioners, most commonly, buff ered propionic acid. T is preservative helps prevent mold in hay, resulting in a bet er


quality bale. But should we be worried that it will be harmful to our horses? Several studies have indicated that the conditioners have no ill eff ect on horses, although they did show a preference for non- conditioned hay. “Proprionic acid is formed in the horse’s digestive system naturally,”


says Clair T unes. And although horses may eat untreated hay more eagerly if give a choice, they don’t hold back if only treated hay is off ered. Be assured while we should be concerned that some things just don’t belong on hay, conditioners are ensuring that our horse’s most important food stuff is the best quality it can be.


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