Hay is a staple food for livestock around the globe, but did you know that there are different types of hay? Each comes with its benefits and uses. Learn more about this nutritional food source in this article.
Make hay while the sun shines! I’m sure you’re familiar with this saying which means to take advantage of a good condition.
This similarly applies to farmers because they need the sun to dry the hay for a few days before they stack them into bales.
After stacking them, they’re stored in a hay mow. Hay must be free from dust, dampness, and mold.
If it gets damp, it has the potential to combust within a few days of being stored in the haymow.
What Is Hay?
Hay is a natural fiber from grasses such as alfalfa or clover. You can use them for animal bedding, mulch, and insulation.
The plant material is harvested and dried before being baled into large blocks called bales. Hay is usually fed to livestock such as cows, horses, goats, sheep, and pigs.
Hay is a renewable resource that can be grown in fields across the United States. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that over 20 million acres of land are dedicated to growing hay each year.
In addition, hay has several other benefits, such as:
- Improving soil quality
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- Reducing the cost of raising livestock
- Improving the quality of meat and milk produced by animals
Difference Between Hay and Straw
Hay is a type of grass that is harvested and often fed to livestock and horses. Straw is the dried stalks of cereal crops after they have been cut down and is commonly used as bedding material for animals.
Different Types of Hay
Alfalfa is a legume grown mainly for its leaves or hay. The plant belongs to the bean family along with other crops such as lentils, peas, beans, and peanuts.
It was originally cultivated in south-central Asia, although today, it is mainly farmed in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Montana.
Well, alfalfa has become a staple food for cows. In fact, it’s the main ingredient in dairy products such as milk and cheese. This legume has been used for centuries as food, livestock feed, green manure, soil amendment, oilseed, and medicine.
Alfalfa can be a green manure crop because it fixes nitrogen (N) from the atmosphere into the soil. Nitrogen is a necessary ingredient for healthy plant growth.
Also, alfalfa helps improve soil structure and fertility, increases the amount of organic matter in the soil, and reduces erosion. This is especially useful for farmers who have poor soil quality.
Alfalfa is rich in nutrients, especially proteins and minerals. It contains vitamin C, D, E, K, folate, thiamine, copper, iron, magnesium, and riboflavin.
Besides, it contributes significantly to the production of energy in animals by promoting the growth rate. Therefore, alfalfa should be in the diet of any animal species.
Interestingly, alfalfa can serve as a medicinal herb. It can treat coughs, arthritis, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, and stomachaches. Also, it promotes lactation in nursing mothers and prevents miscarriage.
Alfalfa is very popular among gardeners because it is easy to grow and maintain. It requires little care and attention. Lastly, this legume is drought tolerant and will tolerate some shade.
Timothy is a perennial herbaceous plant native to mainland Europe. It grows best in full sun and well-drained soils. Also, It prefers slightly acidic soil but tolerates alkaline conditions.
Timothy plant has a high nutritional value, and farmers often use it as a supplement for livestock. It contains many vitamins and minerals that are essential for animal nutrition. In addition, It is rich in protein, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, chlorine, lysine, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and calcium.
Timothy is great for attracting bees and butterflies to your garden. It is also a good choice for pollinators and pest control. Lastly, it adds a nice green color to your garden.
Clover is among the different types of hay growing in fields throughout North America. They serve as a food source, medicine, and forage for livestock.
Farmers use clovers to fix nitrogen in the soil and provide a natural fertilizer. They also improve the quality of the soil and help prevent erosion. This plant usually serves as a cover crop and green manure.
Furthermore, clover has been used for centuries as a medicinal remedy. The leaves contain saponins, tannins, flavonoids, alkaloids, and essential oils.
These compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and anticancer properties.
Clover plants are attractive to bees because they provide food and shelter. These plants also produce nectar and seeds, which are important sources of nutrition for bees.
Fescue grass is a perennial grass native to Europe. They are commonly used as lawn turf because they are low maintenance and require little water.
This grass is a type of grass that grows well in dry, hot climates. It has become prevalent in recent years due to its ability to withstand drought.
Farmers usually grow fescue hay specifically for cattle and horses. The grasses are typically tall and upright, and they produce a high-quality feed that is rich in protein and nutrients. Cattle feed on this hay during winter or when their pasture is unavailable.
5. Orchard Grass
Orchard Grass is a type of grass native to Eurasia and North Africa. This plant is also called cocksfoot grass. It grows well in cool seasons and has long thick leaves.
What makes orchard hay special is its high protein and calcium levels. This means that it is very nutritious for animals.
Orchard hay is great for horse owners who want to feed their animals a nutritious diet. It is also a good option for those who don’t have access to pastureland.
Orchard grass is among the different types of hay that are excellent choice for landscaping projects.
It’s simple to maintain and requires little water. If you want to add color to your yard, consider planting some orchard grass.
Ryegrass is a grassy plant native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It has become a significant crop because it grows well in poor soil and does not require much water or fertilizer.
This grass is grown for hay production, silage, and pasture. Ryegrass contains high amounts of essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The seeds contain high omega-three fatty acids, making them an excellent food source for livestock.
With the increasing demand for animal feed, ryegrass is becoming an essential ingredient for farmers around the globe.
This grass is grown in large quantities in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico, and Turkey.
Bromegrass is a perennial grass native to Eurasia. The plant is popular due to its ability to withstand drought and extreme temperatures.
This makes it ideal for landscaping and gardening. It’s a great choice for gardeners who want to create a natural-looking landscape.
Bromegrass is an essential part of agriculture because it produces high-quality hay. It contains essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, iodine, selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin E.
Lastly, bromegrass increases genetic gains and promotes cell growth. In addition, bromegrass contains anti-inflammatory compounds called flavonoids. These compounds also have antioxidant properties.
Teff is a grass that people cultivate as grain from Ethiopia and has become a staple food crop.
It is also known as Williams lovegrass or annual bunch grass. In addition to being nutritious, teff also contains high protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and fiber levels.
Teff is a gluten-free grain that is rich in nutrients and has a low glycemic index. It is becoming increasingly popular in the United States because it is a good source of fiber and protein.
You can cook the grains into porridges or eat them as a side dish. They are usually served with honey and butter.
Farmers usually harvest this grass as hay because it contains high calcium and phosphorus levels. This makes it an excellent forage for horses and other livestock.
Oats are a whole grain cereal crop grown worldwide. Farmers harvest the grains before they mature and then process them into flour or flakes. People often use oat in baked goods, cereals, porridge, and other dishes.
Oat hay is a natural way to feed horses, sheep, dogs, cattle, pigs, and poultry. It contains nutrients that these animals require, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, protein, starch, and tannins.
Oat cereal is a great way to increase your intake of nutrients and fiber. It’s also a great addition to your diet because it’s low in calories and fat. If you want to include oats in your diet, try adding them to smoothies or baking.
Bermuda grass is also known as Bahama grass or Couch grass. It is one of the different types of hay that is grown worldwide. A very resilient grass that can withstand heat and drought.
Bermuda hay is rich in protein and nutrients and is often fed to livestock. It contains essential amino acids and vitamins, such as vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
That’s all on the different types of hay. It’s quite apparent the number of nutrients livestock gets from them.
However, don’t feed your livestock poor-quality hay as this may lead to digestive trouble and toxic contamination.
What are you waiting for if you have never fed your horses and cattle with hay? Make hay while the sun shines!