I know that it took me years to even consider testing the hay I purchased.
I figured – why? And, I figured that hay was hay.
And, this is true. Most people don’t need to test their hay. And, good quality forage will generally do just fine with your horses – and you can always supplement.
But, sometimes it is IMPORTANT to know about the forage you are feeding. For Insulin Resistant horses, for Cushings Syndrome horses, for other metabolic diseases… and for athletes.
Well… testing hay is EASY!
THIS IS HOW EASY IT IS…
1) If time is not the essence, go to the DAIRY ONE website and request Testing Mailers.
If time is important, call them ( 1.800.344.2697 or 607.257.1272) and they’ll tell you how to send in a sample right away.
2) Once you get your packet, the best way to test your hay is to grab a very small handful from several different areas in several different bales. For each handful, grab a few strands and use scissors to cut them into 2-3″ lengths. Stuff these cut pieces into the baggie they give you.
3) Fill out the form (easy). You can use a return mailing label (that’s what I do), add your email address and then either put your credit card on the form or call them and give them your credit card to keep on file.
4) Label your baggie and label the type of hay you are testing on the form.
5) Put baggie and form into the envelope they provided for you and drop it into a mailbox. No postage necessary because it is included in the $22 fee.
In about 3 days, you will receive an email with your results. It looks like this:
HOW TO READ THE RESULTS for IR/Cushings
Now, depending upon what is important to you, you will want to read different aspects of the results. Ask your vet or equine nutritionist according to your horse’s needs.
For me, since Tess is IR and Cushings, I have to be very, very careful about sugars and starches.
Here is how the Founder Warrior instructed me to read the above results.
We want to know what the numbers are regardless of water content. So then I look at the WSC and starch. WSC plus starch = NSC. No matter what else you read on the web NSC is by definition, without question, WSC plus starch. The WSC includes ESC plus fructans that don’t show up in ESC. Thus it includes all of the potentially harmful carbs. In this case the WSC plus starch is moderately high – 14.7 + 2.5 = 17.2% NSC. Too high for a critical case like Tess. I wouldn’t feed this to my own 19 year-old IR/Cushing’s horse who hasn’t had laminitis (knock on wood 3 times) unless I soaked it.
MORE RESULTS THROUGH THE YEARS…and my soaking protocols.
Here are a few more test results. As you can see, the hay sold around my area varies greatly! I am thrilled I can test it so I know EXACTLY how much sugar and starch is involved – and so I know how much to soak the hay.
SOAKING: I first get a small holed hay net. Then, I break up the flake and put half of it into the net. Make sure to break apart the flake well so all of the hay is exposed to the hot water. I then tighten the cord and put it into a muck-bucket sized bucket of hot water (cold will work, too, it just takes longer and you will have to mash it around more and longer). I swill the hay in the net around with a piece of PVC pipe like a witch with a cauldron. I make sure to push on all sides and I move it around to make sure it is well covered and wet. You will see the water starting to turn brown almost immediately. The brown in the water is the sugar you are removing.
I let it soak for about 20 minutes. For me, this takes out a great amount of the sugar and starch without ‘ruining’ the hay for her. And, I can tend to it while I’m feeding normally. I start the soak first and by the time I am done with chores, the hay is ready to be drained and spread out or hung. It seems that in our climate, the hay often smells a bit rancid, if it soaks for too long, in cold or hot water.
ALSO, I not only steep the hay inside the bag inside a bucket of hot water… when I am ready to take it out of the bucket I also agitate it with my hands like a washing machine… First I pour out half of the water. Then, I take my hands and pull up and then push back in the net (like washing a shirt manually) and I pull different sections to continue the push/pull kind of steeping/agitation. It is my way of making sure that the entire net was soaked and washed and rinsed.
Then, I dump out the rest of the water and put the net in the shower stall to drain for a few minutes. After it drains a bit, I put half of the hay spread out in the sun to dry and the other half I hang in her stall. You can also spread out the hay anywhere to dry – just fan it out so it isn’t lumpy and wet, or else it will become rancid.
She loves it!
WSC plus starch = NSC. 6.1 + .7 = 6.8 (Very good hay!)
WSC plus starch = NSC. 4.9 + 1.0 = 5.9 Really great hay for my purposes!
WSC plus starch = NSC. 18.4 + .5 = 18.9 High sugars and starch.
WSC plus starch = NSC. 17.3 + 2.0 = 19.3 Very high.
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