Nutritional Value of Hay Types; Legume Hay Forage and Grass Hay Forage

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Legume Hay Forage Overview (Alfalfa and Clover)
One of the biggest differences between legume hay and grass hay is the desirable nutritional content. Alfalfa and n average, alfalfa hay has much higher levels of protein, ranging from 15% to 21% depending on when the alfalfa was cut. This is much higher than the protein levels of grass hay, which typically contains 10% or less protein. While most adult horses need somewhere around 10% to 12% protein in their diet, higher protein is important for young growing horses, working performance horses, and for lactating mares. If a horse is fed hay that contains more protein than they can utilize, the excess will be broken down and the waste will be eliminated in the urine as urea, which is then converted to ammonia. For horses kept in stalls, this could be a problem if the stalls are not properly cleaned and well ventilated.

Grass Hay Forage Overview (Alphabetically By Species)
Grass hay typically is quite a bit lower in protein than legume hay (Alfalfa and Clover); the energy content of grass hay is also generally lower than alfalfa hay. For many people who have horses, especially mature horses, non-working horses, or horses that are not used for breeding, grass hay is often preferred over alfalfa hay because of these lower protein and energy levels. Grass hay is also quite often a good choice for senior horses, as it’s easier on the kidneys due to its lower protein content and is also easier to chew and digest.

 

Alfalfa Hay Dietary Nutritional Values on Average
Alfalfa Hay (Legume), alfalfa contains the highest percentage of hay forages in terms of nutrition. Alfalfa is an outstanding source for proteins, vitamins and minerals and is more palatable than most grass hays. Alfalfa is high in vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Crude Protein: 15.0% – 22.0% (8% and 18% protein total per day is considered ideal)
Crude Fat: Min 1.5 %
Crude Fiber: 25.0 to 30%
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb): 0.8 to 1.1
Total Digestible Nutrients: 48 to 55%
Sugar: 7.1%
Starch: 2.5%
Calcium: 0.9 to 1.5%
Phosphorus: 0.2 to 0.35%
Moisture – Max 12 %*
(*Ideally hay moisture should range between 10% – 17%)

Bermuda Grass Hay Dietary Nutritional Values on Average
Bermuda (Grass), hay is usually less expensive than timothy or orchard hay. There are some concerns that lower quality Bermuda grass hay may cause impaction in horses (discuss this with your vet).
Crude Protein: 6% – 11%
Crude Fat: Min 0.5 %
Crude Fiber: 28%
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb): 0.7 to 1.0
Total Digestible Nutrients: 42 to 50
Sugar: 7.5 to 11.1%
Starch: 5.0 to 6.1%
Calcium: 0.25 to 0.4%
Phosphorus: 0.15 to 0.3%
Moisture: Max 10%* (*Ideally hay moisture should range between 10% – 17%)

Clover (Red) Hay Dietary Nutritional Values on Average
Clover (Legume), Red Clover has a good nutrient profile, but it is sometimes affected by a mold that causes slobbering in horses. The slobbering does not appear to harm the horse, but most horse handlers find it offensive. Red clover is often dusty because of fine hairs that are dislodged from the stem.
Crude Protein: 13 to 16%
Crude Fat: Min 0.5 %
Crude Fiber: Max 25 %
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb): 0.8 to 1.1
Total Digestible Nutrients: 46 to 52%
DE, Mcal/Lb: 0.7 – 1.0
Sugar: 12 to 16.2%
Starch: 0.8 to 2.3%
Calcium: 0.8 to 1.5%
Phosphorus: 0.2 to 0.35%
Moisture: Max 13%*
(*Varies between growers. Ideally hay moisture should range between 10% – 17%)

Fescue (Tall)  Dietary Nutritional Values on Average
Fescue (Grass), can be planted in single stands or with other grasses like orchard grass or perennial rye and clovers or alfalfa to add extra nutrients and minerals. It must be noted that Fescue grasses have the potential of containing with a fungus called toxic endophyte, which is dangerious to horses. Endophite free Fescue is recommended.)
Crude Protein: 5 to 9%
Crude Fat: Min 0.5 %
Crude Fiber: Max 35 %
Crude Protein: 7.0% – 11.0%
Crude Fiber: 33%
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb): 0.6 to 0.9
Total Digestible Nutrients: 40 to 48%
Sugar: 12 to 31.4%
Starch: 0.8 to 1.3%
Calcium: 0.3 to 0.5%
Phosphorus: 0.2 to 0.35%
Moisture: Max 11%*
(*Varies between growers. Ideally hay moisture should range between 10% – 17%)

Orchard Grass Hay Dietary Nutritional Values on Average
Orchard (Grass) hay, as a rule, tends to not have the nutritional cutting variations as the other grass hays, Orchard Grass hay is highly palatable to horses. Orchard Grass hay is also less expensive than timothy hay.
Crude Protein: 7% to 11%
Crude Fat: Min 0.5 %
Crude Fiber: Max 35 %
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb):
Total Digestible Nutrients: 42 to 50%
DE, Mcal/Lb: 0.7 – 1.0
Sugar: 16 to 16.2%
Starch: 0.8 to 28.8%
Calcium: 0.3 to 0.5%
Phosphorus: 0.2 to 0.35%
Moisture: Max 11 %*
(*Varies between growers. Ideally hay moisture should range between 10% – 17%)

Timothy Hay Dietary Nutritional Values on Average
Timothy hay (Grass), is second only to alfalfa in protein and nutrients than other grass hays. Timothy hay is highly palatable to horses. Timothy hay tends to be more expensive than the other grass hays.
Crude Protein: 7 to 11%
Crude Fat: Min 0.5%
Crude Fiber: Max 35%
DE, Mcal/Lb: 0.7 – 1.0
Total Digestible Nutrients: 42 to 50%Calcium: 0.34%
Sugar: 12 to 16.2%
Starch: 0.8 to 2.3%
Calcium: 0.3 to 0.5%
Phosphorus: 0.2 to 0.35%
Moisture: Max 11 %*
(*Varies between growers. Ideally hay moisture should range between 10% – 17%)

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