October 2006
Horses, Horses, Horses!

Seeing bright orange pumpkins in front of stacked hay bales, with gourds and colorful corn laying all around, is a welcome and warm vision. The bounty of the harvest during the autumn season is indeed a beautiful sight.

Harvest time is associated with the gift of plenty........the bugle shaped cornucopia, “the horn of plenty,” comes to many of our minds during this season. Here in Alabama we are so blessed in the area of agriculture. Our state is a virtual cornucopia if you will. Alabama is so diverse geographically, yet well provided with rich soil and natural water sources such lakes, rivers, and streams covering an abundance of fertile farmland throughout the state. We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place where God has provided lush natural resources for our animals and us.

Some years the seasonal harvest is more than enough and overflowing, and this of course is good and appreciated. Yet due to the natural rhythm and cycle of creation, there will be seasons where there is less. Unfortunately, it looks like this year will be a year where there is less, especially where hay is concerned. Of course there is always hope, and when there is need, there will be a way for provision.  

A board member of the Alabama Horse Council asked me to write this month’s article on hay availability, or lack there of, in the state of Alabama for this season. Honestly, it is not so easy to find hay for sale right now, much less hay specifically for horses. Due to the horse’s constitution, it can only consume clean, quality hay to stay healthy. Other animals, such as cows, can consume most any quality of hay and not get sick. The horse owner has to be a bit more particular and careful in the quality and cleanliness of their animal’s hay if they desire to keep their horse healthy.

Carla Huston, BES (Bachelor of Equine Science), writes in an article on hay: “Knowledgeable evaluation of hay is critical for the horse owner to purchase good quality at a fair price. First check for flowers or seedpods; this will indicate the stage of maturity at harvest. There should not be any mature seeds or plants in full bloom. Then estimate the leaf to stem ration. The leafier, the higher the percent nutrient, while the stemier, the higher percent fiber. Color and smell are also indicative of hay quality. Check for a bright green color that shows minimal bleaching and loss of nutrients.

The hay should have a fresh clean smell. Any sign or smell of mold or dust eliminates that bale as a horse feed. Horses are very sensitive to those particles, and ingestion of them could cause many physical problems. Also undesirable are any foreign materials such as sticks, weeds, dirt, paper, etc. These are dangerous to the horse and a waste of money.”

Obviously, we as horse owners have to be extremely careful about what we purchase for our animals to ingest. Horses are an investment of time, money, energy and love for most of us, so it is only common sense that we feed them hay that will benefit them and not harm them. I have personally heard of horses being accidentally fed hay that was moldy, and the horses died from colic, so this is a very serious matter. Do take it seriously when shopping around for the best deal on hay for your horse. 

But what about years like this when just finding any hay to feed is a challenge. A good thing to do is to ask at your local Quality Co-op. Many of the Co-op’s employees will know who sells hay in their region, the quality and type of hay they sell, and how to contact the seller.

My friend Joyce told me of a group of Co-op employees that recently traveled all the way to Texas to buy hay for the customers in their local region. They brought it back to Alabama and sold it to their customers at cost. They made not one penny on that deed. They did it out of the goodness of their hearts for the people in their area, because hay is so scarce there right now. That’s the kind of people/employees of which Alabama and our local Cooperatives are very proud to call our own. 

You may also want to search the internet for listings on hay for sale for horses in Alabama and other neighboring states. I went online and there is a world of listings on hay for sale, but mostly in other states right now. The USDA has a Hay Page listed on their site that lists hay for sale within each state. You can go to www.fsa.usda.gov/haynet to check on this by state. Also, here in Alabama we have the Farmer’s Bulletin based in Montgomery. The Farmer’s Bulletin carries all kinds of listings on hay for sale, so it is one of the best sources for local state listings. You can go to their website at www.agi.alabama.gov or you can call them at 334-240-7125. 

Hopefully, all the horse owners and all those in need of hay in Alabama will have access to hay to make it through the winter with their animals. The pumpkins, gourds, and colorful corn are very pretty stacked around hay bales, and there is nothing wrong with beautiful decorations to mark the season. Just be aware that someone in the state may need those bales to feed to their animals this year.

Once again I would really like to know what horse people want and need to know about their animals. Please feel free to send suggestions, questions, and comments to the mailing address: Cooperative Farming News, Attn: Jim Allen, P. O. Box 2227, Decatur, AL 35609-2227, fax: 256-560-2605, or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Janet Bryant is a freelance writer from Oneonta.