A quick and dirty math lesson

I have been asked several times in the last week how to find or where “where do you see” the NSC on a given hay test. What is NSC and how do you find it on your test?

I think by now that we all know what NSC is and why those with metabolically challenged equines need to be concerned with this portion of forage, any feed for that matter. We recently tested one of our own ponies for EMS, it was quite cool and I will share that adventure in another blog post shortly. However for today lets start with a quick review of the various carbohydrate (sugar) values you may find on your hay test.

ESC stands for ethanol soluble carbohydrate. These are the very simple sugars.

WSC stands for water soluble carbohydrate and are made up of the ESC and the more complex carbs.

Starch is just what it sounds like, it is starch, a complex storage form of carbohydrates. Cool season grasses, those grasses we generally find in our hay here on the coast, such as timothy and orchard grass, do not use starch and therefore the content is generally very minimal in forages.

NSC stands for non-structural carbohydrate. This is the number we usually refer to when talking about”sugar” in hay. This value is not tested for but is a calculation of other values so not all hay analysis will list the NSC specifically, sometimes we have to do that math ourselves. At Wrayton Transport we normally provide the NSC value on all our tests, if the lab has not provided it we just make a note on the side (see the tests below.)  If you receive a test and the NSC is not listed you can use a simple calculation to determine the value.


NSC = WSC + starch

You will sometimes see hay tests WITHOUT a WSC value. A test like this is useless for the purposes of calculating sugar to determine if a given hay is safe for your horse. You want to ensure the test you receive shows the WSC value and starch EVEN IF you are given the NSC. This is because we can do another calculation to determine fructans.

Fructans are a storage form of carbohydrates that are heavily implicated in laminitis in horses. Fructans are found in grass hay not legumes such as alfalfa. This is why you will often hear that alfalfa is naturally low in sugar. Labs are not yet testing specifically for fructan but we can do a another simple calculation to give us a pretty good idea of the fructan content of our hay. The fructan content of hay can be determined by the following calculation:

Fructans = WSC – ESC

So there you have it, this is the simple math you can do to determine the suitability of a given forage for you unique equine partner.



Is there glyphosate in my hay?

Glyphosate, also known by its trade name Round Up, seems to be quite the buzz word in hay lately. You will even find hay advertised as glyphosate free. Do you really need to be concerned about glyphosate contamination in the hay you feed your horses?

I recently tested 5 stacks of hay we happen to have on hand here at the farm. I didn’t choose this hay because I thought it was more or less likely to have glyphosate on it, I simply used what I had on hand. I took 500 g samples from 6 different kind of hay originating from 3 different farmers in 3 different towns in Alberta. As you can see from the results below, all 5 samples tested below 0.01 ppm (parts per million.) According to the lab this mean no glyphosate was detected. No lab can guarantee any crop to be 100% free as there could possibly be minute traces below detection levels, however, the information provided to me by the lab indicates that all the hay I tested is free of glyphosate.

These results came as no surprise to me. I did not expect to find glyphosate residue in my hay. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide meaning it will kill most plants to which it is applied, the exception being black berries of course, nothing kills those. This is unlike the broad leaf class of herbicides which generally do not affect grass but will kill broad leaf weeds (and other broad leaf plants) such as dandelions and buttercups. Grazon is a popular broad leaf herbicide often used here on the west coast for the control of buttercups in pasture and hay fields. Glyphosate, on the other hand, kills everything, any plant it comes in contact with. It stops the shikimic pathway, a specific enzyme pathway, which prevents the plant from making certain proteins required for growth. Glyphosate kills plants from the root up preventing future growth.

It has been suggested that glyphosate, Round Up, is being used by farmers as a desiccant or drying agent to help prevent hay from spoiling and allowing farmers to put their hay up earlier and more quickly. This is a misconception. If we go back to the way in which glyphosate acts as an herbicide it is easy to understand why this would not benefit farmers. Farmers do not reseed their hay fields every year. Forage crops, the majority of grass grown for hay, is perennial, meaning it comes back year after year after year. When hay is harvested the farmer cuts the grass or the legume several inches above the ground. It is important to leave some plant material above ground when cutting for two reasons; we hope it will prevent dirt and rocks from being mixed into the resulting bales of hay, but more importantly this leaves some plant material exposed to sunlight to allow for photosynthesis to occur.

As we all learned in grade school, photosynthesis is the process by which plants use sunlight for energy. In the same way we, and our horses, as mammals, need to consume food for energy for growth, plants absorb sunlight during a process called oxygenic photosynthesis. Light energy transfers electrons from water molecules to carbon dioxide molecules, producing carbohydrates (sugar) and oxygen. These carbohydrates are energy for plant grown and cellular regeneration. If a hay field is cut too short and not left with enough leaf for adequate photosynthesis to occur we will see plant loss and poor-quality future growth.

This future growth is the key to successful hay production. Newly seeded fields are often weedy with poor quality growth. Most forage crops need time to establish a good stand. We see improved forage from fields which are 2-5 years old and most fields will be in production for 6-8 years before they need to be reseeded. Of course, the better managed a hay field is the longer it will produce quality forage. If a farmer applied round up to a hay field  in production the plants would be killed, this is the action of glyphosate, this is what its used for, to kill plants. Farmers do not want to kill their hay fields.

There are a few exceptions. The United States approved Round Up Ready alfalfa in 2011. Round Up Ready plants are quite common in North America, both in the United States and in Canada. These crops include canola, sugar beet and soy beans. Canada has not approved Round Up Ready alfalfa however. There are currently no other genetically modified, Round Up Ready forage crops available on the market. What this means for the potential for glyphosate contamination in hay is that unless you buy straight alfalfa from the US your hay is not going to have been sprayed with Round Up. Even in the US, if a farmer grows an alfalfa with any other grass, think orchard alfalfa mix, timothy alfalfa mix, even if the alfalfa is GM Round Up Ready the grass portion of the crop is not and if the farmer sprays these fields with Round Up, the grass will be killed.

The science shows us clearly that glyphosate as a desiccant in forage production makes no sense. I suspect the idea of this use stems from the common practice of using glyphosate in grain production. Grain crops, unlike hay crops, are annuals. Grains such as wheat, oats and barley need to be replanted every year. When a field of grain is getting close to ripe some farmers will apply an herbicide, Round Up being a popular and effective choice, to trick the plant into ripening its seed faster. When a plant thinks its dying it speeds up seed production as much as it is able. The biological imperative of plants, and most living things, is to reproduce. Plants that do this by way of seed need to have their seed ripen before the plant dies in order to pass on its genes, in order to ensure the continuation of the species. If we kill a plant that is close to ripe it will often speed up the ripening of the seed. This happens in grain if the timing is correct.

Imagine you are a farmer in Alberta who grows oats. Your crop is close to ripe but the long-range forecast shows sub-zero temperatures in the near future. Do you let mother nature ruin your crop or do you try to get that crop harvested early? With the use of an herbicide a farmer can save the crop and harvest before the weather turns. One can’t help but sympathize with the often poor options open to farmers. Farming is a thankless job and weather can destroy a famers entire annual income in a few short days.

While we can understand the benefits to the farmer there is the question of safety in consumption of this herbicide sprayed grain. That is something well beyond the scope of this blog post but many people would say no and there is mounting evidence that glyphosate in particular is harmful to human and animal health. I suspect this concern and the misunderstanding of the use of herbicides in farm practice has led to a concern about glyphosate contamination in hay.

These test results were very reassuring to me. It’s easy to be misled. We all want what is best for our equine partners. We can be assured that Canadian grown hay and most US grown hay, is not contaminated with harmful chemicals.


~Tamara Wrayton


Winter Weather

Yesterday I shared some photos on Facebook of the horrific road conditions through the mountain passes of BC. These photos below show just what the truck drivers who supply us with so many of our goods, not just hay, have to deal with over the winter. This is Rogers Pass heading west and Alberta Canyon eastbound.

We had a load of hay stuck right in the middle of this mess though farther east. Clayton was on his way home after a very long, ugly journey out to Alberta. After leaving Chilliwack with a load of steel Tuesday morning, he was stopped behind a truck wreck in Banff most of Tuesday night. He finally got through, made it to Lethbridge to deliver his load of freight, then on to Taber where he loaded hay. On his way home he was stopped just east of Golden. Given the predicted length of the road closure, highway crews started turning trucks around and sending them back to Alberta. This is no easy feat when you pull super-B’s and your rig is over 80 feet long. He did it and headed for Edmonton late yesterday, then on through Blue River and down the Yellowhead Highway to Kamloops. However he’s still not home. Sitting on the highway counts as driving hours despite the road conditions so drivers also risk running out of hours and have to pull over where they can to remain legal. I should see him sometime this afternoon/evening.







Thankfully today looks very different. The weather has improved and the forecast for the weekend is clear. This will give road and avalanche crews a chance to catch up. Once that happens the two trucks in AB loading timothy today will be able to get home as well and the crew here will be busy catching up on deliveries. The price page is up to date and all the tests are there for you to look at.

Drew will be heading up to the interior tomorrow where he will load orchard alfalfa. This hay is not yet listed as I’m not sure exactly which hay he will be able to access. I’m hoping for some 1st cut and some 2nd but with the amount of snow on the ground it will be a matter of which sheds he can reach with the truck. I’ll update you all on Sunday once he’s home safe and sound.



Price increase

Due to contining increases in overhead and last years drought affecting the availability of quality hay, we’ve had to increase our prices slightly beginning this week. You’ll notice these changes on the price page. If you have already placed an order or received a quote I will honour the previous prices of course.

We very much appreciate everyone’s business and will continue to do our best to offer quality tested hay at the best price we can but I felt it was important to give everyone the heads up.


G’s Formula Now Available

I’m so excited!! We are thrilled to be carrying a product I have been recommending to clients for ages now. G’s Formula! We now have G’s Formula available for pick up or delivery along with your hay (as of Wednesday November 29th I will have both tubs and refill packages available here at the farm.)
Those of you who are already using this product know how well horses do when this one simple supplement is added. I am the anti-supplement Queen. When you go to the tack store or feed store, the array of supplements is overwhelming and most have the same ingredients. In an effort to do what is best for our horses I think a lot of us tend to OVER supplement, the “if a little is good, more must be better” philosophy. We buy 3 different supplements and feed them all religiously all the while our horses didn’t really need most of what we’ve just paid a lot of money for. Mineral balancing, starting with your hay, is something I am learning more about (more on that soon) and of course that, imo, has value. However, I believe in good hay. Start with good, tested hay. If your horse needs “more,” more calories, more energy, more something, add more alfalfa, change the nutritional content of your hay. Really it’s that simple. My horses always look fantastic. Anyone who knows us knows Bravo is STILL sleek and shiny and has dapples all over his little bum, despite the weather, despite the cold, despite growing a winter coat. My ponies are sleek and shiny, have good hoof growth and are always in good flesh. However, G’s Formula is the one supplement I think ALL horses should have.
G’s formula was developed to maintain the digestive tract using proven natural food sources. It is a patented, organic, non-GMO, whole food digestive aid designed to heal and support a healthy digestive tract. G’s is made using only human grade, certified organic ingredients, no fillers, chemicals or additives are used; just food, the way nature intended. The ingredients are dehydrated at low temperatures to ensure natural enzymes required for digestion are not destroyed. G’s Formula helps keep tummies happy and if your horse does not have a happy tummy nothing else really matters. 
If you would like more information please have a look at the G’s Formula website https://gsorganicsolutions.com/G’s
Like the G’s Formula Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/gsorganicsolutions/
Or call or email me, I love to talk about horses and how to make their tummies happier and healthier 🙂
(I will have more information on the website shortly, as this is a new product we are just getting organized and you will not find G’s on our online order form, please just email me at wrayton@telus.net to place your order.)

Why should horse owners know how to read a hay test?

“I’ve just bought hay for my metabolically challenged horse. I was told the hay was ‘low sugar’ and possibly the sugar was ‘below 10.’” What does that mean?

As owner’s it is our responsibity to advocate for our horses. We make all the decisions that affect their health. We chose where they live, what they eat, when they eat, when they excersize. We control their access to water! In this same vein, its up to us to understand what they eat. As owners it’s not good enough to buy hay because the girl at the feed store says it’s the right choice.

More and more owners are choosing to buy and feed their equine companions tested hay. This is a wonderful shift, using science to make decisions about what is the best feed. Once upon a time we chose our hay based on the smell, colour, possibly the cut and species we believed was best. While smell is still important, hay should be clean and free of noxious weeds, mold, dust etc., colour has no significant impact on nutritional value. Cut and species means very little in terms of protein, in terms of caloric content or overall nutritional quality. A hay analysis gives us the right information to make a truly educated choice.

But what if you don’t understand the test? Worse, what if a seller tells you there is a test but you never really see that test? And because you don’t know how to read it you never push for a copy as its useless to you? Learning to “read” a hay analysis really isn’t hard. There are a few important numbers, especially for those who feed metabolic horses. Sugar of course, by now most people know sugar should be low for a horse that has metabolic syndrome, Cushing’s, is prone to laminitis or a horse that is simply thrifty and tends to run to fat. But what does that mean? Low sugar, I see hay advertised as low sugar all the time. It’s become a buzzword, a catch phase if you will, an advertising ploy. There are still people who “don’t believe” in the low sugar “craze” and will outright lie in order to sell you hay. And, again there are people selling hay who don’t know how to read a test either. The person who sold them the hay may have told them that it is low sugar. They just pass on that statement with nothing to back it up. There are still many people who don’t know which of the various measures of carbohydrate values to reference when trying to determine if a given hay is adequately low sugar for your horse so may inadvertently sell you hay they believe to be suitable when it is not. What does low sugar mean?

Sadly, I have seen horses become extremely ill because someone thought an ESC value below 10 meant the hay was low sugar. After all ESC does refer to carbohydrates and many people now know the “sugar” in hay should be below 10 to be safe for a horse with laminitis. There are several numbers on a typical hay analysis which denote carbohydrates. While the average horse owner is probably fine not knowing the intricacies of each type of sugar, it’s important to have an overall understanding of what the various numbers refer to and more importantly what those values should be for your horse. What is the difference and why does that matter?

ESC, WSC and starch are the three measures we typically see on a test that give us the overall picture of carbohydrate levels. ESC refers to ethanol soluble carbohydrate, this is a measure of the very simple sugars stored in the plant. WSC stands for Water Soluble Carbohydrate, this is the ESC plus more complex sugars found in the plant. If the difference between the WSC and ESC is calculated this gives us an idea of fructan levels. Forage testing labs are not yet testing for fructans directly but we can use this equation to get an idea of how much fructan has been stored. Starch is yet another complex form of sugar used by plants to store carbohydrates.

Some hay analysis will also provide an NSC value. The NSC is equal to ESC + fructan + starch.

So what does that all mean? Thankfully we can view these numbers and notations in a much simpler form:

NSC = WSC + starch

NSC is the value we want to concentrate on when talking about sugar in hay. This gives the total carbohydrate value, simple and complex sugars combined. This is the value we want to be as close to or below 10% for a horse with metabolic syndrome as we can possibly find.

Nutritionist Shelagh Niblock has created this wonderful graphic to help us decipher our hay analysis. When you obtain your hay test from the lab or your hay supplier you can simply reference these numbers she has provided. You’ll note she has also offered ranges for horses who are not suffering from metabolic syndrome. Not all horses need or will thrive on a low sugar hay, it is important to remember carbohydrates are energy but that is a topic for another post.

As much as I appreciate the great trust my clients place in me to provide nutritionally appropriate hay for their equine partners I think it is important we all have a basic understanding of a hay analysis, especially for those feeding the more sensitive horse. At Wrayton Transport we publish hay tests for all the hay we sell so you can see for yourself exactly what you are feeding.



Taisce Stables Hay Delivery

I apologize for my tardy update. As of today we have $649.00 left in the fund. I was put in touch with the ladies at Taisca Stables in Delta last week. Victoria and Crystal have taken in 44 evacuated horses, most miniatures. While they have received some donations of hay the volume was not as the had been promised and they are concerned that the extra 10 bales a day they are going through will become too much of a burden for them alone. As well as the barn simply needing hay to feed all these extra mouths, with so many of the evacuees being of the miniature sort, sugar is also an issue. I have arranged to send a load of hay, a bit of a mix and match load, some straight alfalfa for the older horses as well as those who’ve lost weigh due to the stress of the evacuation. They will be receiving some low sugar orchard alfalfa for the easier keepers and a softer slightly higher energy orchard alfalfa mix as well. This will allow Victoria and Crystal to feed each horse individually.

I suspect this delivery will more than exhaust the money we have raised. If people are still interested in contributing I am happy to accept any donations and use them to provide hay however HCBC’s Disaster Relief Fund is also an excellent place to donate. We are in contact with Horse Council and will continue to help them get hay where it is needed by using our contacts through the interior of BC. Here is the link to the HCBC donation page: https://hcbc.online/Donate

Another way for those on the coast to help is to give your time. If you can’t leave home, as I can’t, but want to offer your time there are horses who have been shipped to the coast in order to get them out of harms way. The people caring for these extra animals could use help. I suggest you contact HCBC and find out where horses are being hosted and offer to clean paddocks! Everyone involved in this effort could use more help.


BC Wildfire Fundraiser

An update on the money we have raised as of this morning: I am amazed at the generosity of the horse community. I have had people from the lower mainland, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and even Alberta contribute to this fund. Friends, family, clients and total strangers. As of this morning there has been $4450.00 donated and I am waiting to hear back from at least one person with their credit card number for more.

I have a couple concerns. If you have etransferred me money and you have not received an email confirmation for the funds being deposited please contact me. I am certain I have deposited all the transfers I have been notified of but I am concerned not all the notification emails are arriving in my inbox. Also I know at least 2 people were having trouble at their end getting the transfers to go through. Please let me know if you think you may have sent money and I can confirm if I have received it at my end.

As you can see there is currently $4300.00 in the savings account. I have a $50 cash donation as well as a cheque to deposit for $100. I will get up to the bank today to deal with that. We have spent $2681.00 on the first load of hay delivered to the KXA, this was 383 bales @ $7/bale. I have written a cheque for that load and it has cleared so I will transfer that amount over to the chequing account to cover it. I will mail a cheque today for the remaining 200 bales that went to Circle Creek. This leaves us $369.00 (plus whatever else arrives.) I was thinking I would leave this amount for now and see what next week brings. If we need to move more hay to those areas that need it we can.

My other thought: HCBC had a disaster relief fund. They have already used this to arrange a delivery of hay to the evacuation centre in Prince George. I was unable to help with that as we don’t have hay contacts in PG however Vanderveens was able to put Horse Council in touch with a farmer in the area. I was thinking any excess money we raise here could go to that fund for these fires or to be held for future need. Feel free to give me your thoughts on this. As well, if you are wanting to contribute but are uncomfortable giving the money to us here at Wrayton Transport, I understand, honestly I can’t believe so many people are trusting me with this money, you have no idea how much that means to me, HCBC is also accepting donations. This may be a way for folks to contribute in a more secure manner. All funds are used for the horses. Here is a link to their program: https://hcbc.online/donate

I would like to add one more thing, people are so amazingly generous and I see so many people wanting to help. But evacuation centres are being inundated with things they don’t need. Much like the hay situation, cash donations are always best. This allows those on the ground in the disaster zones to purchase what they really need. They are also often able to buy in bulk to reduce the expense and business often give discounts in these situations. As with the hay we were able to purchase in Kamloops was much cheaper than hay purchased here on the coast and shipped up. This means the money you have all donated went farther. HCBC was able to purchase hay in PG and shipping cost, fuel and such, were negligible, meaning more money went directly to the horses. So please consider when donating items that maybe cash would be better spent on site.

Once again, thank you so much! I will keep everyone update as we go along.


Hay Donated to the KXA and Circle Creek Ranch

Fundraising update as of this afternoon: We have raised $3500! This is incredible and I have more people yet to contact who’ve asked to donate so this total will increase more still. Drew has been to KXA already where he delivered 383 bales, 13 ton total. The cost for this hay was $7/bale and it worked out to $200/ton so a huge discount from farmer Jeff! Its beautiful as well, this is not last years crap he’s trying to clear out, this is 2017 orchard alfalfa mix. I even have a test on it lol not that I think people are terribly worried about that right now. The cost for the first load is $2610 which leaves us around $900 in the kitty.

I received a call this morning via HCBC about Colleen Myers at Circle Creek Ranch. Colleen is housing 25+ evacuated horses at her ranch just south of Kamloops. I hope everyone is comfortable with my having made the decision to send her hay as well. Drew has already reloaded and is heading there with 200 bales or so (he’ll give me exact counts later.) I did offer her a full load of 300+ bales but she only wants that much right now in case the horses are able to go home soon. We figure that will give her 10 days worth and we’ll see how things progress after that.

I will continure to collect any money people wish to donate however Eddie and I will be covering the extra cost of Colleen’s hay of course. Drew is going to head over to Barriere when he gets done at Colleen’s where he’ll sleep at our friends ranch and he’ll load hay for to bring home for resale in the morning.

We have also been approached by a group in Mission who need donated “people supplies” hauled to Prince George next week. We are trying to facilitate that but the organizers are struggling to get the goods packaged in such a way that we can safely tie everything on to flat deck trailers. I am trying to find a van trailer as it would be simpler to load but I will keep you all posted on how that goes and also how need for horse hay develop through this next week or so.

Thank you so very much for all the help and support, both financial and emotional, you have all given me. Its amazing what we can do when we work together.




Wildfire Fundraising Update

I cannot believe the outpouring of support for this idea. Less than 24 hours ago I proposed an idea to my friends on Facebook and as of this morning we have raised $3075.00. There is $2595 as you can see in a savings account as credit card donations haven’t yet been deposited. I have promises of other money as well so expect this number to climb. I won’t share individual names of donors but there are a few businesses I’d like to mention. Dr. Nick Kleider gave one of the first donations yesterday as well as Linnet Lane Stables in Victoria and Footnote Farms here in Langley. I received a generous donation from the makers of G’s Formula Equine Supplement as well as donations from Bryn Carregwen Welsh Sport Horses and Ania from EquiKneads. Oh I hope I didn’t forget anyone. Of course there have been many personal donations as well.

Drew, one of our class 1 drivers and the eldest of our children, left this morning for Kamloops with Clint, another of our crew members, and is scheduled to load hay at the farm of Jeff Wills, just outside of Kamloops. I’ll have a better idea when they are loaded as to how many bales they have and what price has been decided upon. Both these young men have offered their time free of charge.

This first load will be delivered to Kamloops Exhibition Grounds and we plan to see how things go from there. Right now there is enough money for this one load and as they have limited space I think the boys may reload for the coast (this load will be purchased by Wrayton Transport at regular price and Drew and Clint will be paid their usual wages for this portion of the trip) and head home tonight unless I hear from someone in need before then. I will continue to accept donations over the weekend in the hopes we can send another load to another evacuation centre somewhere in the interior, possibly early next week. I suspect things will be bad for those who’ve had to leave their homes for some time and they will continue to need our help and support long past this initial state of emergency.

Again thank you to all those who have helped by donating money and support to the fire victims.


BC Wildfires

As you all know by now, the interior of BC is burning. There are wildfires raging across the province and thousands of people and animals have been evacuated and continue to be moved out of their homes to safety.

We are planning to send a truck to Kamloops to load hay tomorrow, Wednesday July 12th. This truck will be loading with around 360 small square bales just outside Kamloops and delivering to the Kamloops Exhibition Grounds. We are donating equipment and fuel. My awesome delivery guys and drivers have offered to give their time as well. I am hoping people who want to help will consider donating cash to buy more hay. Kamloops has limited space available so we plan to start with this one truck load and go from there.

If you are interested in donating we are accepting donations by etransfer to wrayton@telus.net or by credit card. If you’d like to donate by visa or master card please phone the office 604-539-2304. If I don’t answer please leave a message and I’ll get back to you asap. I thought this was a better system than GoFundMe as that takes a percentage of the donations and we, of course, will not.

Thank you to everyone who has already helped and please feel free to share this post. Any donations beyond what are needed to supply hay will be given elsewhere for fire relief and I will ask for input as to where best to donate when that time comes.


-Tamara Wrayton

Teff Hay: Forage For The Metabolic Horse

By Tamara Wrayton

Teff hay is a fairly recent option for those of us looking for a low sugar, mid protein, forage crop for our equines here in British Columbia. But what is teff?

Teff has been shown to be an excellent option for the metabolic horse and those easy keepers; it has even been touted as the perfect hay for foundered horses. Being a C4 grass, teff should average lower NSC values than most C3 grasses (timothy, orchard, brome) because C4 warm season grasses do not form long chain fructan. Cool season C4 grasses store carbohydrates – what we call sugar in hay -as starch, and starch formation is self-limiting. Fructan formation in C3 grasses is not self-limiting so these grasses have the ability to store large amounts of fructan, creating dangerously high sugar hay, which can impact our equine friends negatively.

Teff is a self-pollinating warm season, C4, annual grass grown extensively throughout the US as forage for both cattle and horses. Here in BC we are accustomed to feeding cool season, C3 grasses that grow well in the western regions of North America, Alberta, Washington and British Columbia. These include the timothy, orchard and brome grass most of us are accustom to feeding, however teff has recently been planted in the interior of BC as a forage crop to produce horse hay.

Teff is an ancient grass thought to have originated in Ethiopia sometime between 1000 BC and 4000 BC, where it was used as a grain crop for human consumption. When introduced to North America initially, teff was used as a grain crop for ethnic populations accustomed to its use and as a gluten-free alternative to traditional wheat flour.

Researchers began looking into the value of various lines of teff seed as a forage crop for livestock. Throughout the 1990’s, several strains of seed were developed for their potential as forage and teff has since become a popular and valuable feed for livestock throughout the United States.

There are a number of positive attributes making teff an excellent crop for farmers. Teff hay has high palatability; it produces a fine-stemmed leafy hay that is consumed readily by horses and cattle alike. It is a fast-growing, high-yielding crop. Teff has been shown to be highly adaptable and is able to thrive in both moisture-short and waterlogged soil. Teff has shown significant drought tolerance even without irrigation and is highly successful when grown with added irrigation. While most commonly made into dried hay it can also be used to make silage or as a grazing crop.

Teff also seems to be consumed less quickly by most horses; while they do eat the teff, consumption by the pound seems to drop. This results in fewer calories overall being consumed. Of course, reduced consumption without restricting forage access is the goal for many of our thriftier type horses. I noticed this with my own three horses who had the opportunity to try teff recently. It would appear the teff satiates them so well they eat less hay! However, as always, forage for our horses isn’t that simple.

In hay tests provided by a teff seed supplier, NSC values ranged from 7.2% to 15.9%. The hay testing in the lower range would be suitable for the metabolic or foundered horse, however hay testing at the top of the range would be unsuitable. Further research comparing teff grown under sunny, cool conditions versus teff grown intentionally under drought conditions showed a dramatic 45% increase in NSC. This of course serves to highlight, once again, the importance of testing all hay being fed. Teff appears to have a place in the diet of the metabolically compromised horse but as with cool season forages, we can make no assumptions about NSC values.


Sources and suggested reading:

“Teff Grass-Crop Overview and Forage Production Guide” – (http://www.calwestseeds.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/TeffGrassGuidePCI2011.pdf)

“Teff Grass” (http://teffgrass.com)

“Voluntary intake and digestibility of teff hay fed to horses” -W. B. Staniar*,2, J. R. Bussard*, N. M. Repard*, M. H. Hall and A. O. Burk (http://teffgrass.com/wp-content/themes/tg/downloads/psu-teffhorse.pdf)

“Is Teff grass hay always low in NSC?” – Kathryn Watt (http://www.safergrass.org/pdf/Teff_grass2.pdf)

Forage for the Sugar-Sensitive Horse

by Lynda M. Vanden Elzen

Salsa the mini mule devised her own grazing muzzle quite by accident. That’s one way to go on a diet!

Nearly every day, we receive a call from someone looking for low sugar hay for their sugar-sensitive horse.  Reasons for sugar-sensitivity in horses are varied, but the most common calls we receive are on behalf of horses who:

  • have Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS);
  • have Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID – commonly called “Equine Cushings”);
  • have foundered, currently or in the past; or
  • tend to be easy keepers / overweight.

Not every horse requires or will even benefit from eating a low sugar diet.  Growing horses, harder keepers, hardworking horses, and horses who are just generally not sugar-sensitive can benefit from a reasonable level of carbohydrates in their diets.  NSC values of up ot 18% on a dry matter basis can be (more…)

Can I Trust my Hay Analysis?

By Lynda M. Vanden Elzen & Tamara Wrayton

At Wrayton Transport Hay Sales, we have been testing the hay we sell for years.  In the old days before hay testing, hay quality was evaluated based on general appearance, texture, colour, what was in it, and how it smelled.  If you had a fat horse, you fed it grass hay.  If your horse needed weight, you fed it alfalfa.  Things were so simple back then — except when they weren’t.

Many conscientious horse owners are now making sure to feed tested hay to their equines.  From the thoroughbred who can never eat enough to keep weight on, to the paddock potato stock horse who looks at food and gets fat, every horse can benefit from eating a diet that is suitable for their unique metabolic and performance needs.  Forage testing takes the guess work out of choosing suitable hay for our horses, and for those equines who are sugar-sensitive, it can be the difference between life and death.  These days, what kind of hay it is, or what it looks like, are less important than how it tests.  But are all forage tests created equal?

How many bales would we have to sample to generate an accurate analysis of this stack?

Things to consider:

Was a representative sample taken?  A “representative sample” means exactly what it sounds like – a sample that as accurately as possible represents the larger pile of hay it came from.  Every bale from the same field is not the same.  Every flake in a single bale (more…)

How Much Does My Horse Eat?

by Lynda M. Vanden Elzen

Whether we own one pleasure horse or a barn of fifty performance horses, it is important that all of us know how much our horses eat.  We need to be able to budget for the cost of feeding and be aware of how long our hay will last.  Also, knowing how much our horses tend to eat can be helpful so we will notice changes in their intake, enabling us to catch colics and other health problems quickly. On a day to day basis, if we pay attention to our horse’s body condition and do some simple math, we can figure out if we might need to adjust the type of hay we are feeding in order to provide the right amount of energy and nutrients.

977320_610145955672862_800881093_oThe cost of hay – per bale or per pound?

One of the most common questions we get is “How much is your hay per bale?” The answer is that we sell by the short ton (2000 lbs), not by the bale, because how much does a bale weigh? 30 lbs? 60 lbs? 100 lbs? 800 lbs? 1800 lbs? Bales vary a LOT, as you can see, so how much a bale costs depends on how much it weighs, and comparing hay prices based on bale prices is extremely misleading. (more…)

Propionic Acid-Treated Hay: Is it Safe?

By Lynda M. Vanden Elzen

IMG_1463As horse owners, we always want to find the highest quality hay available for our horses.  Opinions vary regarding which type of hay is ideal, and a hay that is ideal for one horse may be detrimental to another.  One consistent requirement, however, is that hay is free of detectable mould and dust.  What horse owners may not be aware of is how narrow the window is for farmers to bale hay successfully, not only at the optimal plant maturity level, but also at safe moisture levels, while contending with unpredictable weather at the same time.  Losses due to rain and insufficient drying time can cost a farmer a lot of money, and cause heating, loss of nutritional value, and even spontaneous combustion.

Ideally, farmers tend to want to bale when the plants have dried to moisture levels from 13-17%, so that the hay is dry enough to avoid heating and significant loss of nutritional value and bale weight, but not so dry that it shatters.  Ideally, this hay will then cure to contain 10-12% moisture or less (more…)

Hay Storage Safety

By Lynda M. Vanden Elzen
(Published originally in the Langley Times, June 29 2016, page 27)

Pages-from-i20160629054201873Did you know that hay can spontaneously combust, causing barn fires and loss of life, equipment, and structures? Hay is cut in the field, and then baled and stored. If the plants do not dry sufficiently before baling, the hay bales will go through a curing process in storage, sometimes called a “sweat.” This curing process produces heat, which can build up to over 200°F and ignite! When hay is baled before it is dried sufficiently, heat can build as a result of live plant tissue respiration coupled with bacteria and mold growth. Ambient moisture in the air surrounding stored hay can also be a factor.

In the Lower Mainland of BC, our wet climate can produce a perfect storm leading to hay combustion due to the high ambient moisture in our air, and the difficulty our local farmers can experience when trying to dry their hay sufficiently before baling. Hay should test at 10-12% moisture or less in order to avoid risk of heating. In dryer climates, (more…)

A Missing Link for the Metabolic Horse

By: Lynda M. Vanden Elzen

We spend a lot of time here talking to customers about how to feed their sugar-sensitive horses.  People call looking for low sugar hay, and inevitably we end up talking about their horses with them.  We like to get a wholistic picture of the horses we are helping to feed so that we can make the best recommendations to their owners.  More often than not, the horse is a mature, sedentary animal, and the owner admits with great guilt that they don’t ride him as often as they should.  More and more, horses are living sedentary lives in stalls and small paddocks, many with the best of everything….except what is one of the most crucial aspects of their welfare – exercise.

The reality is that we can feed a metabolic horse a diet that is low in sugars, but there is a great deal more to it in terms of creating a wholistic plan (more…)

What is “Quality Hay”?

Written by Lynda M. Vanden Elzen

IMG_9370Nearly every day, someone asks us, “What is quality hay?”  Is 2nd cut better than 1st cut?  Is timothy better than orchard grass?  Are alfalfa mixes better than grass hay?  Is soft hay better than coarse hay?  Is low sugar hay better than “regular” hay?  These are all good questions.  The answer is that it depends on the horse you’re feeding.

Many horse owners who come here to look at hay want pretty, dark green, soft second cut, and then when we ask them about their horse, they tell us they have an overweight, sedentary quarter horse.  The hay analysis notwithstanding, soft hay is usually lower in fibre, which means the horse can eat more of it more quickly.  This is great for a hard keeping thoroughbred, but not so great for a fat pony.  A hay that is dark green in colour can be high in protein and nutrients, but it can also be high in nitrates, especially when you’re talking about our local hay here in the Fraser Valley.  High nitrates can tend to cause diarrhea in many horses.  So, from this short introduction, I think you can see that an appraisal of hay quality is relative to the horse who will be eating it. (more…)

Timothy & Sugars

by Lynda M. Vanden Elzen

Timothy Grass, Langley BC

Recently, we posted here about some of the many misconceptions and some general information about Alfalfa & Protein, and the article got a big response.  Alfalfa is not the only type of hay that is misunderstood – we receive calls from customers all the time who have been told that timothy hay is always low in sugar, or that it is “too rich” for their horses.  We have even heard of vets and equine nutritionists, supplement companies, forum threads and websites etc, telling horse owners to feed timothy hay to their laminitic ponies because it’s always low sugar or always low in calories.  Well, we’re here to tell you it is just not anywhere near that simple.  Feeding any kind of untested hay to sugar-sensitive horses is very risky.  We have done tests ourselves on timothy we didn’t end up buying because the NSC (Non Structural Carbohydrate) values were up to 24%, when sugar-sensitive horses should not consume an NSC of more than 10-12% depending on whose research you’re following.  Even regular hardworking horses (more…)