Hay – Different Smells

Q: What kind of hay has a spicy fragrance when it’s cut?

A: Oconee County Extension agent Henry Hibbs says: “There is definite difference in the smell of alfalfa, bermuda and fescue hay. The most notable is the difference between the legumes and the grasses. It sounds like the description of a wine…but the Alfalfa is a fuller, richer and more pungent and slightly tangy/earthy smell while the other extreme would be well sun dried Bermuda hay which has a fresh, clean, sunny smell. Fescues, simply because of the broader leaf and sometimes increased time required to dry in the windrow has a tangier, heavier, more complex smell.

Fescue Hay often seems to have a little bit of a mustier smell which may be because it is more difficult to cure out in its prime growing season and a slight moldy smell is not that unusual unless it was shipped in from further north or west. The Timothy hay that horse owners love is especially nice for them because it seldom has any mold and even
less of a “hay” smell.

Orchard grass, Brome, and others are grown more in the west and Midwest and have a slight different aroma as the result of the different soils and humidity.

If you bagged the three for a blind smell test, it would be easy to distinguish the Alfalfa from the others and then more of a challenge between the grass hays.

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