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University of Minnesota Extension

Selecting and storing hay

Quick facts

  • Plants have more fiber and less protein as they mature.
  • All hay needs mineral and vitamin supplementation.
  • You can feed quality, rained-on hay to horses.
  • Horse quality hay should be baled between 10 and 15 percent moisture.
  • Store and protect hay from moisture to best prevent spoilage.
  • Bale-wrapping research found B-Wrap® is better than twine and net wrap in shedding moisture when storing hay outdoors for long periods.
Horses eating from a round bale feeder.

Horses efficiently digest forages, and most horses can fulfill their nutrient requirements on these types of diets.

You should choose your forage based on your horse’s nutrient needs and consider plant species and maturity when making a decision about what to feed your horse.

Forage species

Legumes and cool-season grasses are common horse forages. Know what percent grass and legumes are in your hay before buying it.


Factors for choosing hay

Consider having your hay tested to determine the contents of hay such as:

  • Moisture

  • Protein

  • Minerals

  • Sugar

  • Energy

Be sure to request an equine analysis and remember that the analysis is only as good as the sample you submit.

Learn more about analyzing forages.


Bale type

Hay can be baled in a variety of ways. Depending on your storage and feeding methods, each type has pros and cons. 



Tips for storing hay to maintain good condition and reduce losses.


Krishona Martinson, Extension equine specialist, Paul Peterson and Jennifer Earing

Reviewed in 2020

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