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How can there be a hay shortage when the grass is growing like crazy?!

All leading grass growth sources remain unanimous - the grass this year has been growing at an exceptional rate.

Since the end of July we have seen the grass growth remain consistently over 55kg DM/ha; to put this into context, last week's grass growth rate was ๐“๐‡๐‘๐„๐„ ๐“๐ˆ๐Œ๐„๐’ ๐‡๐ˆ๐†๐‡๐„๐‘ than that of the same week last year. That being said, some farmers have reported a struggle to cut hay this year and many have warned of a potential shortage. Some of you may be wondering how this is, given the growth figures suggest that loads of hay has been growing, and indeed it has! However, gaps in the rain have been short and the rainfall itself has been a bit unpredictable. ๐‡๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐š ๐Ÿ๐ž๐ฐ ๐Ÿ๐š๐œ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐š๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ ๐ก๐š๐ฒ ๐ฆ๐š๐ค๐ข๐ง๐ :

  • Hay typically needs to be left to for at least 3 days (usually more) before bailing.

  • Hay cannot be bailed when wet as it typically relies on dehydration as a method of preservation. Wet hay will easily spoil or go mouldy.

  • Most farmers will do two or three cuts in the same field over the warm months, and hay is typically cut later in the season when the grass is mature.

  • There is a greater risk of yield loss when making hay due to the unpredictable weather.

Haylage, on the other hand, tends to be cut earlier in the season and can tolerate the unpredictable British weather far better than dry hay. Another benefit of haylage for some farmers is the fact that it can be stored outside (once wrapped), whereas hay needs to be sheltered from the elements. Put plainly, haylage could be viewed as a more reliable form of forage for farmers to provide, especially with the unpredictable UK weather, which is why historically a lot of livery yards only offered haylage. There is probably a calling for me to do a separate post outlining the pros and cons of feeding hay and haylage, but for now I thought it was useful to give the differences in their production, especially because its easy to take on face value that high grass growth = high hay yield.

Remember to keep checking your horse for ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ฌ๐ž ๐ฌ๐ข๐ ๐ง๐ฌ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ ๐ซ๐š๐ฌ๐ฌ ๐ฌ๐ž๐ง๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ:

  • Footsoreness

  • Heat (in any amount of feet)

  • Flexibility/softness in soles of the foot

  • Swelling above the eyes

  • Shifting of weight from one foot to another

  • Lethargy

  • Pulses

  • Firmness in the neck .

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