Hay is dried grass or legumes cut and used for animal feed. Pasture flowers are also frequently a part of the mix. Commonly used plants for hay include rye grass (Italian rye grass, Lolium multiflorum) and perennial rye grass (L. perenne) with mixtures of other grasses and clovers (red, white and subterraneum). Oat, barley and wheat are also common as hay. Alfalfa (lucerne) makes a superior hay for cattle and horses in many countries.
In hot, dry climates, hay is made from very dry coarse grasses that have very low nutritional values, which is the best that farmers in those areas can do.
It is the leaf material in the hay that determines its quality. Farmers try to judge the point when the leaf in a paddock is at its maximum when the fodder is mowed. The cut material is allowed to dry so that the bulk of the moisture is removed but the leafy material is still robust enough to be picked up from the ground by machinery and processed into storage in bales, stacks or pits.
Hay is generally used to feed domestic animals such as sheep, goats, cows and horses when or where there is not enough fresh grass or when fresh grass by itself is too rich for easy digestion by the animal. Pigs may be fed hay, but they do not digest plant fiber very efficiently.
Related Topics: Raising Hay, Cutting, Baling, Feeding Hay