TEFF HAY. Should you feed it to your horses? Mine love it!

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 | Filed under Nutrition

This post was originally printed in February of 2010.

I’m reprinting it today because hay prices are SKY HIGH… and Teff Hay is still some of the least expensive grass hay around.  To me, it is a great deal.  So, if you see Teff Hay and you wonder if you should purchase it – go for it!

Here’s why…


I’m writing about Teff Hay today because when I heard about this hay, no one had anything to say about it… and my nearby feed supplier only grumbled when I suggested it.  Hmmmmm.  So, I looked it up on the Internet and it seemed like a really good idea.  Basically, it has comfortable protein and sugar levels for most all horses, is new and is generally less expensive than all other grass hay  Here is a link to read about it and understand the analysis.

I really don’t know why more growers aren’t seeding with this.  I assume because it hasn’t caught on yet.  But, for me, after trying a stack (88 bales), I am willing to use it for the rest of my life!  I love it!  Let me tell you about my experience so you can know about it almost first hand.

Here is a photo of my last two bales.  As you can see, it doesn’t look that enticing.  It isn’t bright green and it doesn’t have that grassy fragrance.  To be honest, this is the only Teff I have tried, so there may be variations.  But, for this stack, it rocked!

Now, to explain my horses and their needs…  I have 13 horses and 8 breeds here (Draft, Shetland, Donkey, Morgan, Mustang, QT, TWH and Icelandic).  To say that they all have different needs is an understatement.  I couldn’t feed alfalfa to the Chia Pet easy keepers, I needed a robust feed for the Mustang, a low fat for the Shetlands and a feed with enough oomph for the TWHs.  Yikes!  I usually have several types of hay around here; I use grass, 3-grain, alfalfa mixes… and do a jig every feeding hour as I dance from stack to stack.  When I’d run out of one, I’d have to figure out some alternative or run to the feed store and hope they’d have what I needed for a decent price.  Ugh.  (Here is a picture of the inside of a bale.)

Last Autumn I went on a hay hunt.  I got in my VW and drove around to all the valley growers who I heard had the best hay.  One of them, Glen Owens, had Teff hay.  Since I had done some reading, I knew it was a good alternative for my horses that needed low fat and low sugar forage.  It looked good, nice thin strands, fairly green, pleasant aroma.  Glen was very personable and the hay was very reasonably priced (read “cheap comparatively”) and he offered for me to take one bale to try.  Hmmmm, again.  He was far away and the trek was long…  So, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a stack and hold my breath.  I never know if my delicate charges (read “spoiled” ) would go for it.

The hay was delivered when I didn’t realize it was coming and I was gone.  So, it sat outside the hay barn.  And, because I didn’t know it was coming on that day, I had one of my horses out loose.  Before I got home and could get him into a pasture, he had chewed a nose height circle around the entire stack.  A good sign.  That night at dinner time, I fed the Teff to all 13.  OMG!  It was like a pirahna feeding frenzy!  They dived into that stuff like it was the last hay they would ever see.  I could not believe it!  They ate it better than pure alfalfa – which I never feed but you know what I mean… Here is a picture of a bale of Teff sitting on top of a bale of Orchard Grass.  You can see the color difference.

So, after 86 bales are gone, I can honestly tout the wonders of Teff.  All of my horses are at the perfect weight.  I only have to feed the proper amount to each horse (no need to double up), no feet issues, no Cushings symptoms, no hot horses, no pouty faces, it is all good.  They look great, made it through the winter and all of them have sleek coats, great hooves and smiles on their fuzzy mugs.

As an aside, I was pulling down the second to the last bale of Teff to take pictures for this blog and I shed some of the hay into the wet pasture (it is raining non-stop here).  As you can see, three of my horses (Morgans and Icy) who had just finished breakfast and are not considered “trim” by a long shot, jumped on the shreds of Teff like it was Willy Wonka Teff.  Yahoo!  All of them love it and they all eat it.  Imagine, One Hay For All!!!!!

As usual, if you have any questions, please email or comment and I’ll be happy to respond.

Anyone have any other hay experience?



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29 comments have been posted...

  1. Beverly Pirtle

    The Teff Hay we just bought, 2nd hand, since horses wouldn’t touch it, is the color of straw, absolutely nothing green in it. Thought it was a good price and was going to save me a long drive with a trailer. It does not smell like straw….it has that almost tobacco smell to it. Tried it on goats, who originally went for it, so thought it was a good choice to purchase the rest. My goats are definitely not getting fat on it, and I’m wondering if some of their recent behaviors might be because the “hay” has lost its nutritional value as well as it’s color…..

  2. Ricardo Mireles

    We have giant 1350 lb bales for $150. They fit on back of a full size pick up and we do local deliveries. We are in Perris, Ca. Also have 1350lb alfalfa $170. Everybody loves them, we feed both to our horses, goats, sheep and cows. 951 316 8191

  3. dawndi Post author

    I am not a vet… but Teff hay is high in protein, low in carb. If your horse cannot handle
    alfalfa, I’d cut the alfalfa mix pellets and get straight grass hay pellets. NO OAT. Make sure
    he gets his supplements on cold feed. Alfalfa and oats are hot feeds. The draft in him may be
    very sensitive to hot feeds. You can slowly add later, if needed.

  4. Brooke Martin

    I have a question. I have a half draft half thoroughbred paint. He is about 20 years young. He cannot process alfalfa too much protein for him . So his diet consist of Bermuda , oatmo,and half alfalfa half Bermuda pellets. Now he is picky about his burmuda so i bought a bale of teff for him. He loves it. My question is he usually gets 2 coffee cans of pellets and a flake of teff .. is the amount of pellets to much for him? Do i need to cut him down so he doesnt waste the teff?

  5. Dean Morgan

    Teff is relatively new to the South West, i.e, Arizona. it grows well in arid climates. I found a grower and he is experimenting with this forage. He gave me a large flake to try. I threw it in with my horse (15 yo Doc Bar Quarter horse) and to my surprise, he nailed it. In the past he has balked at Bermuda, but does well with Timothy grass and now, Teff. I did some research and the U of Penn says that it meets 95-97% of the nutritional equine needs. I don’t feed alfalfa…too hard to gage the protein level and that can lead to serious problems such as laminitis. It is the preferred forage for horses that are at risk for laminitis and other metabolic maladies, as well as obese horses. Besides, grass is the correct feed for horses over alfalfa, but some may argue that point. Timothy grass is great also, but it’s a cool weather grass and very expensive here. My horse has to work for a living, so we will see what the future holds using Teff.

  6. Melanie Monroe

    Hi! I love your article. I’m trying to find a grass hay that is inexpensive and that my horses like. I was wondering if this teff hay is anything like Bermuda in the way that some bales have short stems and some have long stems. Are the bales consistent?

  7. Arielle Bristow

    Great article you have on teff. I enjoyed it as I am in the teff marketing business in South Africa.
    Oh, and I see an Amazon ad on your page to the effect that a donation to Horse and Man is made when you shop at Amazon.
    Great! My book, called “The Horse and His Rider” written under the nom-de-plume, Charmazelle Bryant is on sale at Amazon.
    I’ve had a life-long passion for horses!

  8. HorsePowerRanch

    If you are in Southern California, Tom’s Hay Farm grows and sells their own Teff. Definitely worth the drive! Google Tom’s Hay Farm & the website should pop right up. They do offer delivery options. Great family-run business, and quality hay. They always check the inventory for quality before loading our trailer. Our horses at first turned their noses up to the Teff when we first tried it, but soon discovered they loved it more than any of the other grass hays we were feeding. So glad we found someone great who sells it/grows it in Southern Cali.

  9. Annette Scgerr

    You can get teff hay at Cameo Farms in Lancaster. It is organically grown.

    Cameo Ranch / location 8515 W. ave H Lancaster 93536
    Please Call 661-609-4856 for any question. Ask for Anthony

  10. Pen

    I live in Bakersfield and would love to find Teff hay here . Does anyone know if there is any available close ?

  11. Lynn

    The teff hay I have seen here in NM is very fine stemed and with a lot of small seeds. Being so fine stemed, is it an impaction problem? I have heard that the seeds can cause sore mouths. any input will be appreciated.

  12. Tanya

    I feed mostly bermuda grass in southern California, if anyone knows of a good source of good quality hay Bermuda or Teff, or anything (Orchard, Alfalfa, Oat – anything) less expensive than $16 for a 100+ lb bale near Fallbrook or Vista please let me know.

    Barbara where are you?

  13. Ella Eagar

    Does anyone know where Teff is available in the Chico/Durham/Oroville area of Northern California? I have three horses and would like to try it. Also, I am a monthly contributor to a horse santuary and would like to help them with their hay needs. Thank you!

  14. susan richards

    My donkeys love teff and oat hay though in South Africa its seasonal its ususally one or the other =,they wont eat anything else

  15. Brenda Armitage

    We have a boarding and rehab barn in No Cal, and we have fed Teff exclusively for six years. We fortunately have our own hay grower who is local. We have been after or local feed store to stock teff for years also, as people are constantly coming to us to buy some of ours. They finally put it in this last fall. We would never feed anything else, teff is made for horses by Mother Nature.It also has the same nutritional valus as Timothy, and is gluten free.

  16. Christina Dale

    I’ve fed Teff off and on for years, when it’s available. My horses like the thin, soft, not stemmy hay. It’s hard to find in my area (Maryland). Teff seeds are tiny and so are often coated to make them easier to plant. Teff is an annual (and doesn’t survive a frost) so, it needs to be replanted each year, after the last freeze.

  17. Joanie

    I will check to see if they have any here in Southern California…so far I have tried the Chia on my mare and it has actually made her a bit calmer too! So, I will try this if I can find it! Thanks!!!

  18. Janis

    I live in Norhtern Virginia and bought 330 bales of Teff hay this fall and every bale is bright green. and good sized. The price was $6.00 a bale delivered and put away in the hay mow by the man selling the hay. He even brought the hay elevator and two men to help. Best deal I ever got. I feed it to sheep (lactating ewes and lambs) and horses (1 Thoroughbred, 1 Quarter/Arab cross, and 2 Connemara crosses). They all love it and clean up every bite. I think more people don’t grow it because it is an annual and most people probably do not want to have to reseed every year.

  19. barbara

    Have all of a sudden heard about this will be growing my first crop if anyone would like some in a California I can only keep what I need for my horses.

  20. MKM

    I was ambivalent about trying Teff hay because I doubted anything so reasonably-priced could be that good. But, I must say, after an entire winter on Teff, my horses look fantastic. My horses have great weight, not too fat, not too skinny, and on what I consider a low-amount of feed–5 flakes/day/horse, no additional feed other than the occassional treat, and rare grazing as it’s been a particularly tough winter with nearly no grass showing with out continiual layer of snow in our over-grazed pasture. Before Teff, I was adding in alfalfa and grain to keep our horses weight up. With Teff exclusively, their hair is silky and soft, and my farrier has commented on how healthy their hooves are. They absolutely love the Teff–a number of times throughtout the Winter I’ve tested other options–they’ll pass up orchard grass and timothy hay for the Teff. Plus, the Teff is 1/3 (yes 1/3) the cost of other any other hay at our feedstores. I can’t understand why more people aren’t insisting their feedstores carry it. If anyone knows a reason not to buy Teff, please let me know–We’re now driving over 100 miles to buy more bales rather than buying another type of hay from our local feedstores because it just doesn’t make sense to buy anything other than Teff.

  21. Linda

    Wow, we love it too! We have different horses also, 2 on alfafa and 2 teff. Now with your review , when I find some more… my supplier is out. Hope more will become available again soon.

  22. Jamie

    I’m buying my first stack of Teff this weekend. I also have a variety of horses and didn’t know a lot obout Teff. Your article is very informative. Thanks!

  23. Jan

    We’ve also tried a new hay this winter…it’s called brome, and all 10 horses seem to love it. Like you we have everything from yearlings to 30 yr olds (drafts to WB’s) and used to have to stock several types of hay. Since finding brome…it’s a one-size-fits-all hay that they all enjoy. Like teff, not many farmers are growing brome in our area yet (mid-atlantic) b/c apparently it takes several years to become established and be marketable. Seems to be worth waiting for, all the horses love it.

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