Monday, December 14, 2015

Benefits of Organic Hay

10  PVPHA DISPATCH                                                NOVEMBER 2015 

Benefits of Organic Hay

by Tiffany Chiu

What co-op members don't do is spray dyes or preservatives on their hays; most California hays are sprayed at rates of 3 gallons per ton of hay, which mean greener hay that lasts for 2 years without mold spoilage, according to Heshion. Search "hay preservatives" on Google for a list of 16 chemicals and read a Purdue article comparing organic to sprayed hay.

The co-op does add customized fertilizers as needed to each farm's soil. If members spray for an insect outbreak, that hay goes to the cows.

If your horse has health problems, Heshion recommends taking a monthly photo from the same angle and with the same lighting and background, as well as doing a hair analysis. The results tell you what the horse was eating 3 months prior. This way, you can see if the horse is losing fat or muscle weight. The hair analysis will tell you which nutrients your horse needs so you can properly supplement with vitamins.

Heshion also discussed hay testing methods-the results depend on many factors, including the time of day and when in the cycle the hay is cut during the month of harvesting season. The co-op shares the hay testing results so buyers know what the results are and can adjust their supplements accordingly.

Heshion also talked about the importance of protein and nitrogen content, and how growers use organic and synthetic versions of fertilizers to increase hay productivity for a higher rate of return. Cow hay farmers feed lower- quality hays that are cut closer to the ground, where there are more parasites.

Why get your hay from the same farm instead of from hay brokers, auctions and country markets across the country? Hay consistency, and decreased parasite load, said Heshion. In 18 months, horses adjust to parasites present in the hay pastures' soil and develop immunity; different pastures have different parasites. Consistency means fewer enhances for adverse reactions-including diarrhea, digestive upset and refusing to eat new hay-to hay load changes because you feed the same hay from the same fields all year.

Why sell hay from Missouri and surrounding areas to California? Heshion said that railroad cars arrive full of merchandise at the Walmart Distribution Center Back hauling to California from Kansas City, but many return empty to California. Why not fill them with hay?

The co-op's horse hay is transported by using two steel bands to compress 21 two-string bales weighing about 67 pounds each. The bands are 4 feet tall, 3 feet deep and 8 feet wide; they cost $280. The bands are unloaded in Long Beach, where an independent contractor hauls it to a barn for a fee. Customers can pick it up at the dock too.

To switch from one hay to another source of your hay, mix 25 percent co-op hay with 75 percent of your regular hay the first week. The second week feed your horse half co-op hay and half regular hay. The third week, use 75 percent co-op hay and 25 percent of your old hay. During the fourth week and beyond, serve your horse 100 percent co-op hay. Give the horse two months on the co-op hay before retesting to see what the horse needs next.

For more information, contact Heshion at 816-728-2933 or They are also available on Facebook by searching for

The PVPHA hosts monthly general meetings for educational purposes; it does not necessarily endorse the views of its speakers. We encourage consulting veterinarian before making changes to a horse's feeding regimen.

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