When feeding hay this winter, stop and do an on-site quality evaluation, says Gary Bates of the University of Tennessee:

  • Is there rot on hay stored outside? Thirty percent to 40 percent will be rejected if six inches of the outer layer has spoiled.
  • What is the ratio of leaves to stems? More leaves means better nutrition.
  • What color is the hay? The more yellow and brown, the maturer the plant at harvest.
  • How does it smell? A dusty or moldy odor indicates hay put up wet.
  • Are there a lot of weeds? Weeds indicate lower quality and nutrition.