5 Reasons to Test Your Horse Hay (And How To Do It)
When grocery shopping, do you ever take a look at the ingredients or the nutritional information on the back of a product? If you’re like me, then you probably do. It seems many people are becoming more and more conscious of what they’re putting into their bodies these days. So why not do the same for our horses?
Sure, many people know the protein or fat content of their bagged feed, but what about their hay? After all, this is where a horse gets (or should be getting) the majority of his nutrition from.
I wrote a couple of posts earlier this summer–How to Take a Pasture Sample and Understanding Your Horse Pasture Analysis, but many horses’ diets don’t include pasture. So that’s why getting your hay tested is so important!
Here are 5 reasons to test your horse hay:
- So you know how much hay to feed. You calculate this by using the Digestible Energy (DE) amount on the analysis. You can figure the average horse’s DE needs by multiplying 0.0333 x body weight in kg (to get your horse’s weight in kg, divide his weight in pounds by 2.2) Then to know the amount of hay to feed, divide the horse’s DE needs by the DE amount listed on your hay analysis. For example, if a horse needs 16.1 Mcal/day and the hay’s DE amount is 1.65 Mcal/kg, 16.1/ 1.65= 9.8 kg or 21.6 lbs (again, multiply by 2.2 to convert to pounds). This is how much hay you should feed daily.
- Because knowing the sugar/starch level is very important for overweight horses or horses with metabolic conditions. It’s best to have the ESC (simple sugars) + starch level less than 12% for overweight horses or horses with insulin resistance, Cushings, or other metabolic conditions. If your ESC + starch is slightly higher than 12%, you can reduce the sugar/starch levels by soaking it in water. (See this article I wrote on hay soaking.)
- Vitamins and minerals are in hay too–but how much? When you get your hay tested, then you won’t be guessing which minerals you need (or don’t need) to supplement.
- Your horse could be iron overloaded. Chances are, your hay is high in iron. There may not be much you can do about the iron, but you can supplement more zinc and copper (and possibly manganese) to offset the high iron levels and bring the trace minerals into balance.
- Concentrated feeds may not be needed. There’s a good chance that you can meet your horse’s protein, vitamin, and mineral needs with hay alone (plus maybe a ration balancer or mineral supplements). You may not even need to waste your money on concentrates! The only way to know is to get your hay tested though.
How to Take a Hay Sample
The next thing people usually want to know is how–how do you go about getting your hay tested? Thanks to companies like Equi-Analytical, it’s a lot easier than you might think. Here’s what you will need though:
- Hay probe (you can usually borrow one from your local university extension office or you can buy one. If you purchase one through Equi-Analytical, you can get a free hay analysis.)
- Electric Drill
- Large plastic baggie
Here’s what you do:
1. Fasten the hay probe to the drill.
3. Separate probe from drill after sampling each bale and push the hay out with a plunger or stick and into the baggie.
4. Send baggie in for analysis.