Making Your Selection
Many buyers with whom we deal buy hay based on its visual appeal to the human eye - dark green, leafy, soft. This equates to hay that is very high in nutrients, high in protein, has high intake potential, higher in fat, sugar, starches, and calories, and will be lower in fiber.
The consumer-driven hay market has continued to demand ever more "beautiful" premium hay, and it is our belief that we now have on a consistent basis hay that is almost "too rich" for the normal horse or small pet. In addition to this "premium" hay, many owners feel that more is better and are feeding ever increasing amounts of treats, vitamins, minerals, and supplements, whether the animal really needs them or not! In fact, one might say we are killing them with kindness.
It is our opinion that an owner must use common sense when planning a menu for their companion -- most of us would not choose to eat every meal at the finest of French restaurants, continually eating only the richest and fattiest of foods! Rather, we would offset this "treat diet" with some good practical foods that are not high in fats, calories, cholesterol, etc., some of the time and we would watch the size of our portions. This can be accomplished with our pets also. Remember, weighing your portions is the best way to make sure your animal is getting the amount of feed he really needs.
Another train of thought is to choose either to feed premium hay and cut down on the treats and supplements, or feed less-than-premium (but still good quality hay) and make up the difference with some treats or supplements. In other words, do one or the other, but not both!
We recommend that you look at the hay choices available in any given year, buy samples of the types you think are most likely to work, and go feed them out. This assures both you and us of a successful outcome in providing a menu that your pet will eat, and one that will be good for him!!
Most importantly, observe your pet's appearance frequently. If you can develop an "eye" for the current body "condition" of your pet, it is much easier to adjust the size of portions, up or down as needed, on a daily basis than to find it necessary to drop or gain large amounts of weight.
Purchasing Your Hay
If at all possible, we feel it is prudent, for many reasons, not the least of which is consistency, to purchase a year's supply of hay at one time for our horse customers.
At our barn, August through November are the best months for hay purchases. The supply is normally ample at that time of the year as the crops are being harvested for the current year, the price is the best of the season, and the choice range is widest.
Once a particular type of hay has been sold out, that type of hay will not be available again until the next year's crops are grown.
As stated above, hay is only grown during a portion of the year, so if you are purchasing hay during a time other than the growing season the hay you are purchasing is being stored at a storage location. If it is not the growing season, the supply of "fresh" hay at the neighborhood feed store is not hay that has just been harvested from the field, but rather hay that has been in storage and has been taken from that storage location and delivered to the store. Large amounts of hay (hundreds of thousands of tons) are stored either in covered barns or in professionally tarped stacks in Eastern Washington. Due to the low humidity in Eastern Washington, hay that is stored properly will store well for extended periods of time.