Animal Feed Advice

Types of animal feed

During colder seasons, or where local pastures contain scant forage due to high temperatures, types of animal feed available can be restricted. In extremes of environments particularly, hay is the preferredalternative diet for farming livestock, or animal feed.

Of course, there are significant differences in the varieties of hay, in terms of quality and availability. Lack of knowledge of health impacts, how to prepare animal feed, animal feeding equipment used and any particular animal’s requirements, for instance can make feeding your livestock problematic. We understand that the farmers we supply directly and those served by our far-flung distribution network have hugely diverse needs. We want to make your lives easier.

With some good forward planning feeding hay wherever you are and whatever the local weather can be a simple and efficient animal feedalternative while waiting on pastures returning, or if feeding nomadic animals.

Types of animal feeds available to our farmers and distributors include hay and grain.

Hay can be broken down into the following categories: Grass, Legume, Mixed hay (grass and legume),Cereal grain straw (e.g. oat hay).

Some of the more common Cambridge Feed hay supplyincludes:

Fine Cut Rhodes


Perennial peanut grass hay

Mustard hay

Wheat straw

Rice straw


Cereal grains e.g. oats

Please Ask Cambridge Feeds’ consultants


Cereal grain crops, particularly oats, make good hay when cut even as they are growing; we can provide either mature hay with the seed heads for grain, or early cut cereal hay. Cambridge Feeds’ quality standards mean that risk of nitrate poisoning is avoided by not harvesting cereal grain hays after a spurt of growth following any drought periods suffered. A typical legume used for hay is alfalfa or perennial peanut grass hay (Arachisglabrata). Good legume hay may have a slightly higher level of digestible energy, vitamin A and calcium than grass hay. Alfalfa can offer twice the protein and three times the calcium levels of grass hay, ideal for farm animals that need more dietary protein and minerals.

Nutritional Value of Hay

The nutritional value of hay is connected to their leaf content; leaves of grass hay containgreater nutrients and these are more digestible when this animal feed productis still growing. When the plant is fully grown, it has more fibrecontent.

Legume leaves, on the other hand, do not change so much during the plant’s growth and this product has different structural functions, such as structural support from woodier stems. As a result, legume stems are generally coarser and more fibrous e.g. Alfalfa stems.

When assessing relative nutrient values of hay, judging leaf-to-stem ratio is essentialfor harvesting alfalfa plants. Our suppliers recognise that digestibility, palatability and nutrient values are veryimportant for farmers and livestock owners. This is why we tend to harvest this particular grass for hay production when the plant is young and has more nutritional leaves and less stem material.

About half of the energy and three quarters of the protein and other nutrients are in the leaves ofgrass and legume forage plants. Coarse, thick-stemmed (overly mature) hay has more fibre content. Our supply chain can accommodate later harvesting, where need arises for this higher fibre product from customers. Whether you requireyounger leafy hay with finer stems and greater nutritional content, fibrous content of older hay, or a mix in types of animal feeds, please talk to our advisors.

Our suppliers can be flexible, providing hay cutting throughout their growing season. Check with us about offers of first, second or third cuttings, or even later, if preferred. We understand that stage of growth at harvesting impacts the qualities of our supplies. For instance, weeds can appear in first hay cut and crude protein levels vary. During cooler growing seasons, alfalfa typically offers a higher leaf-to-stem ratio,due to the slower growth habit. If buying grass hay, maturity at harvest also makes a significant difference in terms of nutrient content.

Early alfalfa, cut before the blossoms open has about 16-18 percent crude protein, compared with lower levels for many other grasses. When cut during full bloom this nutrient content drops to 15.5 percent crude protein.

As a general rule, one can assume that early cut legume hay is more able to meet the protein and mineral needs of young, growing, pregnant or lactating animals than many of the grass hays. If you need some expert advice from Cambridge Feeds, be sure to talk to us about your specific animal feed requirements.

Animal Feeding Tips - Hay

When changing an animal’s diet, it is best to undertake this process gradually. This is especially the case when changing hay types, such as from a grass to a legume. Begin by mixing the two types of livestock feedfor several feedings, steadily adding more of the preferred hay mix into eachanimal feed every time.

This allows your animals’ digestive tracts to adjust to breaking down the different types of animal feed; digestive systems produce different chemicals and bacteria, depending upon the food being processed.Changes in diet can disrupt the microbes that help the animals digest their feed. There is also the associated shift in pH alkaline-acid balance, which can create problems if you do not know how to prepare animal feed in order to help the animals adjust and remain healthy.

Changing animal feed types too abruptly can make an animal sick, or cause animals to bloat. Changing suddenly from grass hay to alfalfa, for instance, can change the environment in the ‘rumen’ of cattle, sheep and goats and in the ‘cecum’ of a horse.

Hay for Horses

Horses can do well on grass or other legume hay. Alfalfa is highly nutritious, with its high protein and mineral content. With any animal husbandry, it is important to keep in mind the particular nutritional needs of your animals.

For instance, mature horses will not need high protein or calcium levels, unless they are mares nursing foals. Different animal life stages and their differing dietary needsmeans horse owners need to understand the way their hay feed has been harvested to optimise their animal’s well-being.

Animal Feed Quality:

Cambridge Feeds ensure our suppliers’ hay is protected from rain after being cut, or is not baled too green, too wet or too dry. This ensures the best horse feedpossible, free from dust or mold, in order to minimise coughing and any risk of respiratory problems.Moldcan cause painful colic in horses and can cause a pregnant mare to abort. Talk to us about our quality control measures for complete confidence.

Good grass hay feed is ideal for mature horses, naturally containing the proper calcium-phosphorus ratio; this should be 1:1 or 2:1. For pregnant or lactating mares and young growing foals, legume hay, added to the horse’s diet of grass hay,provides the additional nutrients needed at those important stages when horses’ nutrition needs are greater.

When choosing alfalfa hay for horse feed supplements, be selective in your choice of hay. All horses have different needs;leafy hay is beneficial for weanlings, for instance. Adult horses, that do not need such fine hay for ease of digestion, can tolerate mature cut hay. If the content of hay is too rich and palatable for horses, they will tend to overeat and not have enough fibre content for proper digestion.By the same token, alfalfa hay, cut well past bloom stage, may contain too much fibrous stem and be too coarse for older horses which have poor teeth and cannot chew ‘stem-filled’ hay.

Horse feed prices can vary too, the most costly being the more highly nutritious hay, such as alfalfa. In all respects, choice of animal feed will depend upon balancing different considerations of what is important at the time for horse owners.

In terms of dangerous pests, for instance, we understand that some customers ask for first-cutting alfalfa for their horses, this being less prone to blister beetles, which are deadly if eaten. Our rigorous management systems seek to eliminate these risks at all times.

First-cutting hay is, by contrast alsothought to beundesirable among some horse breeders because it tends to have more weeds. Cambridge Feeds implement quality control measures to minimise weed infiltration in horse feed.
As a general rule of thumb, the best horse feed is grass hay. However, alfalfa or other legume hay can be an excellent horse feed mixed with grass hay for animals that need more protein. High protein content hay, such as alfalfa is also a good winter feed because of the heat created during digestion.

Hay for Beef and Dairy Cattle

Cattle can generally tolerate dustier hay than horses and caneven tolerate a little mold in dairy cattle feed, which will not causethem any problems;however, some types of mold may cause pregnant cows to abort. For this reason, Cambridge Feed processing involves rigorous quality control measures.

Choice of hay feed for cattle will depend on whether you are feeding mature beef cattle, dairy cows or young calves. Mature beef cattle do well with any type of relatively plain hay. Lactating cows, on the other hand, need more protein. Good quality, palatable green grass hay, cut while still growing, will be adequatethen. However, if your grass hay feed is coarse and dry, vitamin A and protein will be lacking, so the addition of some legume hay to the cattle’s diet will work well.

Dairy cows need the most nutrients per pound of feed to produceadequate milk. Only feeding grass hay, or on stem-heavy, coarse haywith few leaves can create problems in productivity and calving.

Young calves have tender mouths and cannot chew coarse hay very well. They need fine, soft hay that is cut before the plant blooms, for easier chewing and digestion; also this stage of plant growthcontains more nutrients versus fibre.

When animal feed prices rise, beef cattle, by contrast can be fine eating a mix of straw and some type of protein. Straw provides energy, from fermentation in the rumen. A small amount of cattle supplements can provide the necessary protein, minerals and vitamins these animals need for building bulk.

Cambridge Feeds offer good quality, clean straw to choose from. Options include cereal straw – the most palatable – but we offer other straw ingredients too. If feeding beef cattle cereal grain hay, we recommend hay cut while still green and growing, rather than mature material as straw.

In colder climates or weather, cattle do better if fed extra roughage because they have a larger gut digestive capacity (often referred to as ‘rumen’). Roughage rather than legume hay is ideal for such conditions.

As part of the general animal welfare management processes, always check for nitrate levels to avoid nitrate poisoning, so you can be assured of giving your animals the best feed for beef cattle.

Hay for Goats

The best goat feed will include legume hays such as alfalfa and there are a variety of this family which suit kids, e.g.: clover, vetch, soybean or lespedeza. These plants also are ideal for pregnant and lactating does. Mature goats do very well on a grass-legume mix and some grass hays. Generally goats do not eat coarse grass for animal feed; having small mouths, it is harder to chew and swallow. Most good quality hay, dust and mold free feeds that is suitable for horses, will be good for goats too, who will find it palatable. Feeding goats coarse hay will lead to these animals eating only the leaves, but not the stems, so their diet needs to be well-considered.

When browsing while roaming free, goats eat a wide variety of plants, including some weeds and plants that other animals will not touch. This means, they will also happily eat weedy hay that is not suitable for horses, for instance. Cambridge Feeds ensure our animal feed products do not contain toxic plants, however, for complete peace of mind.

Hay for Sheep

Sheep prefer fine, leafy hay and, like goats, will not eat coarse hay. Early grass hay or leafy animal feed is usually the best feed for sheep livestock. Mature sheep will do well with good-quality grass hay, but lambs fair better with legume hay, harvested while still growing because it has finer stems for easier feeding and digestion; it also has a higher nutrient content.

Sheep will generally waste a lot of hay if fed on muddy ground; sheep feed needs to be kept clean and dry in an animal feeder of some kind, such as a feed bunk. However, their small mouths mean that they can clean up fine hay well, on powdery snow covered or frozen ground. Some farmers keep sheep and cattle livestock together when feeding hay; this way the sheep can eat the finer material that dairy or beef cattle waste.

Hay for Camels

Camels have traditionally beenused as a mode of transport and for hauling goods in ‘camel trains’. Camels are also used all around the world for milk production too. Their milk is highly nutritious and is increasingly used in the manufacture of numerous health supplements.

The camel does not require too much hands-on management and with the right animal feed requirements and amount of feeding, these animals can happily work on for extended periods. These hardy creatureseasily survive in the harshest of desert climates, their bodies being adapted to eating low quality grass grazing. Animal feed too rich in nutrients can lead to weight problems.

Cambridge Feeds recommend some of the following for Camel Feed:

Rhodes grass is also used all across the world as a good food supplement for camel. They are generally grown in the field of Pakistan and are very beneficial for the health of the consumer. This type of grass contains very less amount of moisture and rich in protein a digestible fibre.

Wheat straw is also used as camel feed. This straw feed is very nutritious, providing everything needed to keep a camel healthy and has a moisture content of less than 10 percent, ensuring its longevity in storage.