The most reliable way to know the exact quality of your hay is to have it tested. But if you’re wanting a quicker, more inexact way of determining hay quality, here are a few things to go by.
Colour: Good hay should be bright green in colour. Good colour indicates it was cut at the right time and should be higher in vitamins. Brown hay will likely have far fewer nutrients. Hay could be brown because it was put up too late, or because it was baled without properly allowing it to cure. Hay that was baled wet will also mold throughout the bale.
Leaf/Stem Ratio: The more leaves the hay has in relation to stems, the higher quality the hay will be.
Snap Test: Take a handful of hay and fold it in half. If the hay bends, it has good moisture content and should be palatable. If it breaks, it’s drier and not as good.
Smell: Good hay, no matter what species, should smell clean and fresh. A little dust is not a deal-breaker, but if it is moldy, or smells musty, look elsewhere for better hay. To tell if it’s dusty or moldy, shake a flake of it out. Mould will appear a grayish-white color.