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Horse Hay Alfalfa + Orchard or Timothy


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11 replies to this topic

#1 nprranch

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 11:55 AM

I've always heard that the best horse hay is about a 50/50 mixture of alfalfa and grass, but which grass is best, timothy or orchard grass? I'd like to hear the pros and cons for each choice. I planted my field in straight alfalfa last fall and the field is looking good so far this year. I am planning on overseeding with grass once the alfalfa stand takes good hold, probably after first cutting of alfalfa this spring. I live in east central Illinois and both of these grasses do well here.

Will either one of them tend to choke out the alfalfa or otherwise harm it?

Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

#2 hay wilson in TX

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 07:41 PM

I would rather limit feed alfalfa and free choice a grass hay. Silly things really do not need much more than 10% CP.
I really do not like to see a horse get alfalfa, unless it is in hard training, or is a wet mare.

Grass hay harvested correctly should test in the 12% CP range.
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#3 mlappin

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 01:05 PM

Not sure how much experience you have selling to the horsey market, but in my experience one owners perfect hay is the next owners perfect poison.

Around our area it's mostly a Alfalfa orchard grass mix. A late mate variety of orchard grass can be had that like its name suggests, matures later. Around my area at least it seems the orchard grass persists better thru the year as well while timothy from what I hear later in the year is done while the orchard grass is still growing.

Granted, it's always been orchard grass in our mix so I don't have any personal experience with timothy. Like was pointed out before a lot of the horse owners think they have to feed timothy for the simple reason that's what their father or grandfather fed.

Had a guy bring a real nice load of timothy alfalfa hay in the other day to the auction, about 50 bales on a pickup, practically gave it away as the horsey folks might say they want timothy, but don't even recognize it when its right in front of their faces.
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#4 Rodney R

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 06:54 PM

You didn't say where you're at, and what the demand might be. I would go with orchardgrass if you're going to plant grass in it. O-grass is more persistant, has much better regrowth, and is heartier than timothy. Much easier to spray for weeds when there is o-grass vs timothy. Stuff that will kill timothy will only thin the o-grass stand. Much easier management. I know that Wilson says that horses don't need alfalfa, but I'll sell what the customer wants, cause if they don't get it from me, they'll get it from somebody else.

Rodney
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#5 hayray

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 06:01 AM

You didn't say where you're at, and what the demand might be. I would go with orchardgrass if you're going to plant grass in it. O-grass is more persistant, has much better regrowth, and is heartier than timothy. Much easier to spray for weeds when there is o-grass vs timothy. Stuff that will kill timothy will only thin the o-grass stand. Much easier management. I know that Wilson says that horses don't need alfalfa, but I'll sell what the customer wants, cause if they don't get it from me, they'll get it from somebody else.

Rodney


Ya, what he said. I like Hay Wilson's idea of free choice grass hay and then supplement with alfalfa if needed be. More common in my area to have 1st cut grass around the 8% protein because the majority of first cut is not down until late June to early July.
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#6 Production Acres

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 06:54 AM

Most of your real savy horse owners want a 75%orchard25%alfalfa 2nd to 4th cutting hay! Most of our requests out of south fl want a t/a mix. Half of them don't even know what t/a is - you tell them you have timothy/alfalfa, they tell you they want "t and a". Then you ask if they want 1st or 2nd cutting, and they don't know the difference.
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#7 Mike120

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 09:30 AM

Most of your real savy horse owners want a 75%orchard25%alfalfa 2nd to 4th cutting hay! Most of our requests out of south fl want a t/a mix. Half of them don't even know what t/a is - you tell them you have timothy/alfalfa, they tell you they want "t and a". Then you ask if they want 1st or 2nd cutting, and they don't know the difference.


IMHO most horse owners don't know the difference. Down here there is a fascination with Timothy because it has to be imported from out of State. That gives it great snob appeal. We have a local barn owner in the area that brings it in by the truckload but his horses all look bad because he limits how much he feeds them and I doubt he even knows the protein content. We love to show against him because our hay costs are so much lower and our horses always look (and generally perform) better. Mr. Wilson is entirely correct that they do much better eating grass hay....That's what their digestive systems are designed for and it's best if it's more or less continuous. Actually, the only time we feed (supplement) Alfalfa is when they are babies. We stop a month or so after they are weaned. The Alfalfa gets them through the stress period and prevents ulcers. I learned that trick after a $3K vet bill. Buying a little Alfalfa is cheap insurance, but they sure don't need it all the time.
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#8 mlappin

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 11:19 AM

I seem to remember hearing storys of how my great grandfather took care of his horses. Granted these actually were actually draft horses but hardly ever did they get any of the cow hay. Were fed good quality grass hay and when they were plowing they each got one small ear corn and a can of oats. Might have got a little alfalfa if it was a severely cold winter.

For the most part it seems a lot of people over feed their horses and have to limit intake. We have a neighbor that feeds nothing but grass hay and he lets em eat free choice and they are some of the better looking critters around.
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#9 nprranch

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 01:05 PM

Thank-you all for your responses. I've personally owned and raised horses for over 30 years now and I agree with most of you that too much alfalfa can lead to problems. I personally feed free choice grass (orchard grass and/or timothy) and supplement as needed with alfalfa. i.e. A little alfalfa in the cold winter months has never hurt any of my animals.

My original question was posed because of requests I've had from local horse people wanting a 50/50 mixture. I will probably use it only on a limited basis and keep doing what has worked for me for years.

Had a guy bring a real nice load of timothy alfalfa hay in the other day to the auction, about 50 bales on a pickup, practically gave it away as the horsey folks might say they want timothy, but don't even recognize it when its right in front of their faces.


As far as many horse people having no idea about hay, you guys are also very right on that point. I've had customers that want a good grass hay come to my barn and see the pile of grass hay and the pile of alfalfa sitting beside it and choose the alfalfa hay. Some of them are so clueless about hay that I'm considering baling my manure and offering it to them as "organic" hay, just kidding. I think a lot of them simply associate price with what's better for the animal. If it costs more it must be better. Here in my area of Illinois alfalfa still sells significantly higher than grass hay.

Thanks again for all your comments. I think I'll make an alfalfa/orchard mix since I have a little more familiarity with orchard grass and not so much with timothy.

#10 nprranch

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 01:06 PM

East Central Illinois

#11 jstrohfus

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 03:04 PM

We have a 50 horse boading operation and feed a lot of hay. We also grow about 30 acres each year. We go heavier on Alfalfa 50 A / 50 O or even 75 A / 25 O. There has been a lot of research about straight Alfalfa being fed to horses with no problem. Of course we don't free feed either, rather each day our horses get a ration in the barn and a ration fed in feeders. They can't eat all day on it.

We also go with a higher mix as the Alfalfa gives better yield and "looks" better for customers in the barn. That said, we also buy some 100% grass if it's good and clean. O grass has better yield after the 1st cut so we prefer that over timothy.

Hope that helps...

#12 ohiohaymakr

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 09:29 PM

If you have an established stand of alfalfa it might be hard to add a grass. I dont like to raise timothy alfalfa mix. Can't synchronize maturty,alfalfa ends up too ripe and coarse. More request for alfalfa and orchard grass the last couple years.




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