Question: What should I look for when buying hay?
Good hay looks and smells appealing--to you and your horse.
- Hay should smell fresh, be bright green in color, and free of weeds.
- There should be no sign of dust or mold. Hay that was baled too wet will mold. A horse that breathes mold spores from hay can quickly develop permanent lung damage.
- Hay that is freshly baled will be warm and dry feeling when you stick your hand into it. Hot hay may mean there is too much moisture. Hay that is heating excessively can combust and should not be stored in a barn, or fed to horses.
- The seed heads should be closed and the leaves intact. Broken leaves indicate that hay was baled too dry, and will be less nutritious.
- Hay that is yellow or brown has been rained on or sun bleached. In either case the nutritional quality will be lower.
- Many farmers test their bales for moisture content with a special gauge. If you are unsure about how to judge the moisture of freshly baled hay, ask to see the reading on a gauge.