Horse Nutrition as posted by

The Ohio State University, Bulletin 762-00


Hay Quality

Hay quality is as important as hay quantity. With proper appraisal, hay can be selected that is both safe and worth the money paid for it.

The simplest method of evaluating hay is called the organoleptic (sensory) analysis, which includes:

  1. Maturity – In general, the more mature the forage the less digestible it is and hence of lower nutritional value. This can be evaluated by looking at the coarseness and brittleness of the stems, and the development of the seed head. If legumes are in full bloom or if grass seed heads are large, they are of lower feed value than plants cut at earlier stages of maturity.
  2. Leafiness – The leaves contain most of the protein and nutrients that are highly digestible. Therefore, legume hays that are mostly stems or have a lot of shattered leaves are less valuable than leafy hays.
  3. Condition – This can best be determined by smell and sight to detect mold and dust, and by feel to determine brittleness and heat. All hay develops some heat after it is freshly baled, but if baled too green it will get very hot (more than 100 degrees) and decrease the protein availability. Also if hay is baled too green it is likely to mold or at best become dusty from damage done during the curing process.
  4. Color – Green is ideal but overrated. Green is an indication of Vitamin A content and means that the hay has not been rained on prior to baling. Actually rained-on hay (unless it received a lot of rain over several days) is only slightly lower in nutritive value than hay that was not rained on. That loss in value is usually due to more leaf loss due to more handling to dry the hay for baling.
  5. Foreign Material – Weeds and other trash in a hay sample would lower the value of the hay.

A simple score card for evaluating hay would assign the following values to these five characteristics of hay:

Maturity – 30%
Leafiness – 30%
Condition – 20%
Color – 10%
Foreign Material – 10%

The original artical information is available at the link posted below.

Ohio State University

Thank You for your interest!

Richard Goulah



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