is my hay considered brown or green

sgullFebruary 27, 2014

A local horse owner occasionally brings me bags of hay for composting. I don't know much about it other than it is what they rake up around the where the horse(s) feed inside the stable. It has occasional manure mixed in but is mostly all hay. It's dry and sort of light green colored hay. I'm wondering if this is considered a brown or a green for my compost pile.
I plan on asking the horse owner what kind of hay it is. From what I've read, there are about three types of hay typically fed to horses: legume (alfalfa) hay, grass hay, and grain hay. Depending on what type of hay this ends up being, which would be considered a "brown" and which might be considered a "green" for my compost pile?

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Unfortunately, the answer is going to be 'it depends'. Factors such as when it was cut/cured, type of vegetation (as you alluded to), storage, age, moisture content, and probably a few others.

Having said that, most horse owners I know look for better quality hay so I would treat it as a green until proven otherwise. For that matter, I would treat all hay products as a green until proven otherwise.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Okay thanks Lloyd. I'll treat it as a green then, unless proven otherwise. These horse owners probably try to feed their horse good quality stuff. Dang I was kinda hoping it might be a brown. Oh well.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:17PM
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Hay is grown and used for animal feed because it has a fairly high protein content which is Nitrogen, so hay is a "green" and does not depend on anything. Even spoiled hay is a good source of N, for gardeners, so that is also a "green" even if it is brown in color.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 6:56AM
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Good to know, thanks kimmsr.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 11:12AM
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I've seen "hay" put up that wasn't fit for animal consumption. Any one with actual farm experience knows that the quality of hay (protein content) can depend on when it was cut in its life cycle, how it was cured, if it got substantial amounts or frequent rain prior to baling, how it was stored, how long it's been stored, etc etc.

Grass can be similar. Freshly cut, or even dried and stored after cutting (which is what good quality hay is), it will be a green. Let it weather and a lot of the nitrogen can be lost. Is it still good for compost? You bet, but it might not provide enough available N to heat up a pile if that is a goal.

One can google "low protein hay" and one will find there are many articles one can read if one is interested in the various qualities of hay.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 1:13PM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

ding ding ding
round 248

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 3:20PM
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He started it.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 6:27PM
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A little scared to wander in here...

As someone with horses who buys hay and incorporates it into a complete feeding program I would not assume that "quality hay" infers "high protein hay."

What I'm looking for in "quality hay" is clean, properly baled (not molded or dusty) hay that is palatable. If you go ask any random horse person if they feed "quality hay" for the most part they are NOT going to be thinking about protein content when they answer!

I have horses with a higher metabolism that need more total digestible nutrients from their hay and they may get a hay with higher protein in the form of legumes. I've got fatties that need no additional nutrients in their hay but the nature of a horse's digestive system is one that does better if they keep small amounts of forage moving through it so I try to find them something palatable with low TDN and low protein. But they all get "quality hay."

Cattle farmers who are either producing milk or beef might be more likely to equate protein with quality, not so much horse owners.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:37PM
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Don't be scared....kimm and I have been duking it out for a few years now. :-)

And you are absolutely correct, the factors involved in classifying "quality hay" involve much more than just the protein content. Having said that, I've never seen a horse person feed crap to their horses so in all likelihood, any "hay" that is being used as feed, coming from a horse outfit, should be treated as a green for composting purposes. How strong a green is just a guess that experimentation can determine fairly quickly.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:36PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I'd call most all hay green...

of course I also know the difference between hay and straw. ;-)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 11:32AM
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Yeah, green. Not too many if ands or buts about it I gather. Thanks for all the helpful replies here.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Buts are a green, I'm not sure about ands.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 4:10PM
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