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Teff Hay Ideal For Horses
Kyle Conway was sold on teff hay after feeding it to his horses for just one winter. He liked it so much that he began selling it at his feed store. Today, he brokers teff along with alfalfa across much of the U.S., in particular California. Along the way, he discovered why other horse owners have long been dissatisfied with the ancient grain as a forage.
“People say their horses won’t eat it,” says Conway. “It needs to have a green color and very minimal seed. In my opinion, a bad experience with teff is due to bleached, discolored hay and being overgrown.”
Conway notes that many farmers look for the highest yield when harvesting a hay crop. Lots of tonnage makes good economic sense, but it doesn’t produce the best product. That is especially true with teff grass. He points out that a farmer can get three times the yield with teff if he harvests after the seed heads mature.
“If it goes to seed, it stores more starch and is overgrown, and the horses find the seedheads bitter and don’t like them,” says Conway. “In other areas, rain can delay harvest, and it gets overgrown. Our growers ensure that teff is harvested at the optimum time for the ideal nutritional value. That’s before seed heads form, and the plant is fine-stemmed, leafy, soft, and palatable.”
For Conway, teff’s nutritional value is key. When he saw the positive response in his horses, he began sending in samples for analysis.
“I saw the fiber content was a lot higher than alfalfa, and starch was a lot lower,” says Conway. “When starch passes through the horse, it is processed into glucose sugar in the hindgut. It causes metabolic issues similar to what sugar does to people who are diabetic.”
Teff is also lower in protein than alfalfa, ranging from 17 to 19 percent with the first cutting and falling to 10 to 14 percent by the third cutting. Conway points out that horses in the wild were designed to eat from 4 to 18 percent protein.
“When we introduce really high protein in the ration, they have to work harder to get rid of it,” he says. “If you free choice alfalfa, some horses will do fine, but most will have problems and get fat. However, if you only feed alfalfa twice a day, ulcers can be a problem.”
He explains that the horse was designed to graze 20 hours a day. When fed sporadically with no outside pasture, stomach acid spikes without continued saliva production to counteract it.
“I’ve taken horses with severe ulcer problems, fed them just teff grass and in a few months, the problem went away,” says Conway. “When I started feeding it to my horses, their attitudes improved, and they were easier to work with. At the end of the winter, they looked better than when I fed them alfalfa.”
Conway reports that teff is also an anti-allergen. “I had three cases of horses on medication, and within 2 to 3 weeks of switching to teff, they came off medications and could breathe again. The best equine veterinarian in Arizona told me that teff grass is the best, most complete feed for horses. It does everything a horse needs.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Kyle Conway, 1620 E. Country Lane, Gilbert, Arizona 85298 (ph 520-483-4996; www.conwayfeed.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #6