I find the info in the article, pretty much what I already know. But good info anybody not familiar with the choices.
In Utah, certified hay is marked with a tag that is applied to bale strings. The certifier can either certify individual bales, where he will break open and inspect one bale for each bale he certifies or he can certify an entire field. But he must view the field before it's cut. After inspecting the field, the farmer wil report how many bales it produced and the state will issue up to that amount of certified tags. I know colorado and other states require the farmer to use a special colored string to indicate that the bale came out of the inspected field.
The feed stores and farmers that sell the certifed hay in Utah apply the tag as they sell the bales. So in my case, I can buy non-certifed hay for say $5 a bale or certified hay for $7. It's the same hay, they just charge more for the tag. They report back to the state how many tags were used and how many bales were sold with out tags.
The biggest disatvantage I have is that it is almost impossible to buy a certified grass hay. Here in Utah it is almost always alfalfa. And it is usually 2nd cutting. First crops have more weeds, so they are seldom certified. This creates two problems, I prefer to feed a grass hay to my horses so switching to certified provides the horses with a very rich hay which requires I switch over slowly over a few days. Second, since it comes from 2nd cutting, It can be very hard to find certified hay in the spring and early summer. What ever hay that was certified last year is gone. So I have to make sure and buy extra bales in the fall for any spring rides. Or buy pellets in the spring.
I frequently pack in for hunting season. We pack in a pretty large camp. Wall tent, wood burning stove, cots etc. Most of the natural graze is gone by October, so we have to pack in feed. Space in the panniers is at a premimum. Hay pellets when fed, seem to get lost in the dirt. I don't have space to pack in tubs or buckets to feed out of, We pour the horses feed on the ground, or at best on empty feed sacks. And while bags of pellets are easier to pack into the back country, flakes of hay on the ground don't get wasted as bad. The horses seem to vacuum up all the hay. So it's kinda of a toss up. I don't mind feeding excess calories ( alfalfa ) in camp. We are working the horses much harder during the time we are camping. I have found Super Compressed bales of hay in our area. They are 1/2 the size of a normal bale but weigh the same. These smaller bales are easier to pack than normal bales. So I sometimes use them vs pellets. Another problem with pellets, Is that some bears seem to like them. I've had bears wander into camp and rip open the pellet sacks and eat them, but ignor the hay bales.
Certified hay is required by Forest Service, BLM and all State lands. So pretty much any public land requires us to bring certified hay. It's something we have had to deal with for about 15 years. So the rangers don't accept the excuse of "Geee I didn't know"
Another problem is some of the National Parks are even stricter. Yellowstone for example does not allow ANY hay to enter the park. They are concerned about Non-Native plants becoming established in the park. They make you clean sweep your trailer before entering the park. You must shut your windows to prevent any plant matter from blowing out of the horse trailer mangers. So it's not just noxious weeds. But any plant that was not natively found in the park boundries. i.e. Alfalfa is not a native pant. Pellets don't present the risk of ANY plant seed blowing out of the window of the trailer. So pellets are a better choice if you enter the park.
Last edited by Painted Horse; 01-26-2010 at 10:50 PM.