Friday, December 2, 2016

Interpreting Hay Analysis

I finally had my hay tested! This is something I've been wanting to do but since I don't have any "special needs" horses, it was on the back burner. Plus I wanted to wait until a large supply was delivered so it would be relevant for a while.

Here are the results for the 2nd cutting orchard grass that I feed spring through fall:

Here are the results for the 1st cutting orchard grass/timothy mix that I feed in the winter:

I had to do a lot of research when I received these results because to be honest I had no idea what many of these values should be. I had a general notion about desirable protein content in hay and knew that lysine is an important amino acid. I knew that people with metabolic horses are concerned about NSC (non-structural carbohydrates) in hay, but I didn't know how to calculate that with what I was given (or how concerned I should be about it given that my horses have no known issues).

So after doing a lot of research and some calculations, I'm satisfied with the digestible energy, protein, and NSC:

  • DE (averages .76-.94 Mcal/lb): within range for both (.86), suggests ~29 lbs of hay per horse per day needed (based on light work recommendation of 25 Mcal/day for 1400 lb horse)
  • Crude protein (typically 8-10%): slightly low for 1st (7.7%), high for 2nd (12%)
  • ADF (30-35%): slightly high for 1st (37%), ok for 2nd (32%)
  • NDF (40-50%): high for both (61% and 55%) <-- suggests low palatability
  • NSC (WSC + starch, <12% for low sugar/starch diet): good for both (~10%)

Here's a table that shows what the horses would consume when eating 2% of their bodyweight in hay plus 1.5 lbs of Triple Crown 30% per day (I only totaled it for the 1st cutting because when they're eating 2nd cutting spring through fall, they are on grass more than half the time):

I also calculated mineral ratios for the hay alone and in combination with the TC30:

I thought it was really interesting that some ratios were off in the hay but corrected by the TC30. It seems that the TC30 is indeed fulfilling its purpose as a ration balancer!

The "required" column in all of these tables comes from the following sources:

National Research Council
Dr. Getty's How to Interpret Your Hay Analysis Report
Understanding Horse Nutrition (this is a great resource on all aspects of feeding!)

For help with unit conversions (e.g., lbs to grams, ppm to grams): try these conversion tables from Equi-Analytical. Here are some I found useful:

lb     x   453.6   =  g
mg/kg  x 0.4536  =  mg/lb
ppm     x  0.4536  =  mg/lb


  1. Thank you for a wonderful and educational read. I appreciate you sharing your thought process for arena and dry lot layout, also the information regarding your tack room struggles. You have motivated me to focus on my pastures as I enter the horse farm creation process!

    1. Thanks Catherine! I'm so glad you're enjoying my blog. Good luck with your new horse farm! As you can probably see, it can be a complicated and sometimes frustrating process but the payoff is great!

  2. I really enjoy your blog. I recently bought a small farm and being new to farming, appreciate that you put your experiences out there for us to read! A dry lot is on my agenda!

    1. Thanks pingbo! I'm happy that my blog is helping you. You will love your dry lot!!!

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