Is there a resource that compares all grasses and legumes commonly fed in the U.S. that shows nutritional value along with glycemic indexes? I know there are huge variables in hay quality, but a basic overview would be great. I have a few ponies and can't realistically do lab tests because I buy my hay from different sources, about 30-50 bales at a time. My options in Missouri are commonly brome, prairie grass, alfalfa, fescue, and mixes including lespedeza and clover. When I lived in Washington State, we had timothy and orchard grass. I know that the South has hays that I'm not familiar with, and I'm sure there are many others. This would probably be helpful for people suffering in drought areas who have to purchase forage from out of their area and have to find something comparable to what they were previously feeding. My personal issue is that I have ponies that need low-sugar diets and I am trying to feed them the best diet possible.
You will see there can be a massive range in the sugar content between different samples and the labs don’t tend to classify grass by species, as often they have no way of verifying if the classification is correct.
Generally, later cuts of hay are usually more fibrous with lower sugar and protein content. Grass that is more mature when it is cut for hay will also show the same trends. Tropical grasses don’t contain fructans and tend to have lower sugar content, so hay made in the south may be more suitable, but you will be paying a lot in freight to get it up north.
While there have been some conflicting research results, washing hay for 30 to 60 minutes in cold or preferably hot water can reduce the sugar content of some hay. This method can be used if you can’t get safe hay for your horses.
There are a number of other articles on www.Equinews.com relating to hay selection, variables that affect sugar content, and laminitis risks.