Q: I will be buying alfalfa hay for several horses this year. How can I know it is of the best quality?
A: The only way is through a forage test, available from your local Extension office (1-800-ASKUGA-1).
According to Extension agent Wade Hutcheson, many consider alfalfa to be an excellent hay but berumudagrass can make a very comparable quality hay if it is managed properly through the growing and harvesting stage.
Understand what a forage test report tells you. Crude protein is not the most important factor. Total digestible nutrients (TDN), fiber, nitrate level, energy level are also important. Total digestible nutrients and relative forage quality (RFQ) are better indicators than crude protein.
Also, be sure to check alfalfa hay for alfalfa blister beetles as ingestion of enough will make a horse sick or worse.