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Cattle Diets and Nutrition

What does hay look like?

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December 31, 2009 8:35PM

Hay is dried grass or legumes (primarily alfalfa and clover) that is mostly light green on the inside of the bale. Round bales, if weather-worn, will look greyish on the outside with the rest of the plant material a golden to greenish colour. Bales that are not as greyed are more goldish-brown colour with green forage inside. Hay tends to be flakey, especially if there's little bits of dried alfalfa or clover leaves inside, as well as parts of grass leaves that are so brittle they're so dry, but it is mostly stemmy from the stems of the grasses and legumes. The thicker stems are from the alfalfa legumes that livestock tend to pass over to get at the grassy stuff.

Hay bales themselves come in different sizes: there's the small square bales that aren't actually square but rectangular in shape and weigh up to 75 lbs. These bales can be carried and broken open by hand without need of a tractor; the large square bales are thrice as big as the little square bales, also rectangular but can weigh up to 1000 lbs or more. The large squares need to be handled by tractor. Small round bales are almost non-existant because of the cost to make them, but they are about 3 feet high by 3 feet wide, some are around a foot larger, and are cylindrical, weighing up to 700 lbs or more. Large round bales are often 6 feet tall (diameter) by 6 feet wide or a foot smaller; and they can weigh up to 1200 lbs if the hay is compacted tightly together in the baler. Large round bales are also cylindrical in shape. Both small and large round bales are handled by a tractor because of their size and weight.