Pellets vs Hay

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Pellets vs Hay

This is a discussion on Pellets vs Hay within the Trail Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category
  • Bales vs.pellets
  • Grass hay pellets utah

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    01-26-2010, 12:01 PM
Pellets vs Hay

We’ve started our trip planning for this year.
With certified weed free forage rules being enforced for the national forest areas that we like to visit we’ve been thinking a lot about the whole pellets versus CWF hay bales issue. It’s a big deal for many people who horse camp from the trailer and/or going into the backcountry. With this in mind I talked with Natalie from Equis feeds and she graciously sent us a tremendous amount of information on the pros and cons of pellets and CWF hay.
Here’s a link to the entire article.
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    01-26-2010, 12:47 PM
Good article. We've not been anywhere that CWF hay was a necessity...yet
    01-26-2010, 09:45 PM
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.
    01-26-2010, 11:22 PM
Wow! Painted youhave to jump through a lot of hoops there. Here we can find CWF grass hay fairly easily but it's usually the double packed bales that are tiny but weigh the same as a regular bale. My horse doesn't like to work that hard and does better on pellets!
    01-27-2010, 09:35 AM
The point being that I use all the products, depending on what and where we are riding that weekend. It's great to have choices.

Since we have tendency to stay on the trail ALL day, I do let my horses graze along the way. I feel it's important to keep their gut moving and hydrated on long rides. Now that doesn't mean my horse can stop at will and grab a bite when he wants. But I do allow them to eat when ever I'm stopped. And I do bring hobbles and hobble the horses while we eat lunch. So what ever feed I haul with me, gets supplimented by grazing.

I learned a trick from an old sheep herder once. He turned his horses loose to graze at lunch and when ever he needed to get off. He didn't worry too much about hobbles. He always kept a small nose bag with some grain. When it was time to catch the horses he would shake the nose bag and the horses would come and get a mouth full of grain, and be caught. I've yet to buy a nose bag, Probably should, but my horses have learned that I usually keep a few cubes or large pellets in my pockets. And they look for them when I approach them.
    01-27-2010, 10:33 AM
Hmm....this was incredibly useful...thank you for posting!

I am thinking about considering a riding/road trip to a few state parks as a graduation I have a few things to consider about what I take to feed my pony! Lol

By the sound of seems like it would be easy to take bales so long as you don't have to pack them in...if you have to pack them in it seems like cubes/pellets would be easy...

Thank you!
    01-27-2010, 04:04 PM
Pidge I believe you posted that you wanted to be gone for 3-4 weeks. Its pretty difficult to haul enough hay for 3-4 horse for that long of time, You will need to buy feed somewhere along the way. Think about it, 3 horses will go through a bale of hay a day x 21 days for your trip. That's 21 baes of hay in your pick up truck. I know girls, There will not be any room for hay in your pickup truck. It will be full of your bags.

Buying more of the same hay you feed at home can be difficut to find. Every field has it's own mix of grasses. It may be coastal grass in south texas and orchard grass in Colorado and Alfalfa in Utah. Buying a commercial feed is fairly simple. Purina Feed in Texas is pretty much the same as Purina feed in Utah. So if you have horses that get upset stomachs when you change their diet. You may want to put them on some sort of commercial feed that is easy to buy along the way.

The other issue that whats a normal plant in Texas maybe an invasive plant in Utah. Even though it's not considered a weed at home. So you really don't want to be hauling hay for extended trips. If you are buying hay along the way, you will need to mix hays and change over several days vs Ooops that bales gone, wheres the new?
    01-28-2010, 10:18 AM
Yea...ive decided it might be easier to just use a commercial lucky my boy doesnt have a picky stomach...i completely changed feed an only had to mix feed for a transition for about 4 for hay so long as its a grass hay an not alfalfa it doesnt bother him at friends horses stomachs adjust well too.

So I figure in my situation that buying cubes or pellets and supplimenting them with grazing along the trail would be best in my case...ive also figured that a two week trip would be more cost effective lol

In my area it is simple enough to buy 50 lb bags of cubed alfalfa and its real easy to find complete feed pellets...i figure a week or two of diet adjustments before the trip and I would be set on that. Does this sound good? Like I said I plan on letting the horses graze along the way lol im lucky there cause I don't need horse stays withing 30 ft at all times and if I go to move away he starts fallowing after me a bit to make sure he is close enough lol and even if he zones out while grazing and gets to far off I just walk over and bring him back closer...its funny cause he gets this "Oops my bad..." look on his face when you go get him.

My new question is...if your using pellets/cubes then how much of them do you need to feed? Does it varey from horse to horse? And can you base it off how much grazing they are also getting?
    01-28-2010, 06:47 PM
Same as Hay.. If you feed 20lbs of hay, feed 20lbs of pellets.

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