Feeding horses cow hay? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 07:53 AM Thread Starter
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Feeding horses cow hay?

So where I board my horse, they are literally down to a bale of hay left. That gives them one day to find more hay. They were thinking of calling over to the farm where I work and getting a large square bale because all of our hay suppliers are completely out. The only problem is, the bale would be cow hay. Having worked on a farm for years, I know there is a big difference between cow hay and horse hay. Since it is a lot woodier and twig-ish I don't think they would even be interested in it. And I'm not sure, but isn't the nutritional value way different? I'm also worried that if they do get this hay, their horse will eat it and mine won't because my mare is super picky. And if this does happen, I am worried they won't do anything about it and she will starve herself. She is 20 years old so she needs those nutrients.

Opinions? Thanks!

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post #2 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 08:05 AM
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It really depends on the hay, but in general, it is usually roughage with low nutritional value and you need to watch for mold, etc. since cows will eat almost anything. Horses won't starve themselves, but the concerns are that they may forage for anything else around to eat including stuff that is not good for them if they are hungry enough, and a sudden change in diet can cause intestinal problems (e.g. colic).

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post #3 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 08:33 AM
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Depends on hay. The place I used to board my horses made own hay (nice little round bales) and fed it to the horses as well as their cows (they were very careful about making a hay, and it was stored in huge barn for the winter, and I know couple people bought hay there for horses). However generally the cow hay I see around is low quality - huge bales kept outside and looking moldy by Spring. I wouldn't feed it to horses. Also with round bales it's always a very good practice to give botulism shots to the horses.
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post #4 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 08:43 AM
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Ditto what the others said. However, if it's a choice between cow hay and no hay, I'd choose cow hay. It will at least satisfy part of the horses' need for chewing forage a certain percentage of the day.

If you mare is super picky, as you say, I'd look at supplementing her diet with another form of roughage to be on the safe side - beet pulp or hay cubes would both be options.
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post #5 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 08:56 AM
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As long as it's not moldy you should be ok. I'm actually down to cow hay as well. I had to go to a nearby dairy farm for a round bale. BUT... I did see a farmer out cutting hay yesterday so the new stuff is coming!

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post #6 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 09:06 AM
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Wow, farmpony, where do you live? I haven't seen anybody cutting hay yet, but I suspect I will this week as it's unseasonably hot. Usually first cutting around here is around Memorial Day weekend.
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post #7 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 09:31 AM
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Maura, my cattle breeder neighbors have already started cutting and baling hay.

I've cut my acreage once, and I'm going to have to do it again this weekend. Our grass has been growing like crazy!

I have my year's supply of hay booked and it looks to be a banner year for it, which is good. The last several years with the drought made hay hard to come by.

I'm getting it for $2.50 a square bale this year. Last year I paid $6.00 a square bale, so I'm psyched! I do have to go pick it up out of the fields, but who cares?

I'm not keen on feeding cow hay, but if you can pick through it and not give the horses the moldy stuff, it should be okay in a pinch.
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post #8 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 10:29 AM
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Ok folks - as a beef producer - let me say we do not feed poor quality hay. We can feed the same hay we buy for the cattle to the horses. It's not moldy or coarse or stemmy. Most of our cattle are more valuable than the horses boarded here. No offense to my boarders at all.

However - if a crop is down and rained on prior to being baled - our hay guy will specifically market it towards cattle. The only difference we have noticed is it may be more dusty.

Yes cattle can get by with a lesser quality hay but please don't label all cow hay as bad!
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post #9 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 10:30 AM
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There is no such thing as COW HAY!!!!!!!!!!

This absurd labeling of hay by horse lovers has no basis in fact! The best hay in the nation goes to our dairy herds. Many cow herds are fed better than you could imagine! Yes there are a lot of people out there that feed some real crap to their cows. There are people out there that put their animals in all sorts of riducoulous situations - both out of love, neglect, and ignorance.
But call the hay what it is - cheap! or Junk! or Erosion Control Material!
Labeling hay should be based on its forage analysis, not the stock you see eating it! The stock you see eating it do not qualify as a forage analysis!
There is good hay put up in every bale dimension, in every climate, of every species of grass. There is also garbage baled in every bale dimension, every climate, and of every species of grass.
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post #10 of 31 Old 05-07-2010, 11:13 AM
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I have to agree with FP, so long as there is no mold it should be okay to get her by until some more can be found. After weeks of searching, I finally found someone who actually has some really good alfalfa hay for sale for $50 a bale (3x3x8 bales). Around here, most cattle get fed hay that is not really high enough quality for horses to be sustained on, i/e wheat straw or often times it is either grass hay or low quality alfalfa that has been rained on and is moldy.

Just check it over really well and I'm sure that she will eat what is available if she gets hungry enough.
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