There is a new kind of hay that is hitting the horse, alpaca and cattle community. Teff hay also known as and called Tiffany hay. Teff has been around for thousands of years and derives from Ethiopia. Teff has many benefits to horse owners and also to farmers that produce it. Its highlighted points for horse owners are that it is gluten free, which for any owner of a horse prone to laminitis, Cushing's or insulin resistant is a blessing to help manage. Studies have shown when hay was tested NSC (non-structural carbohydrates) averaging around 10% or less. It’s palatable like a nice alfalfa, and gives horses the bulk and nutritional needs without high amounts of sugar or making them “hot”. Further hay test results found that with it being a being a warm-weather grass crop typically has fewer sugars than that of a cold-weather crop such as an orchard or a timothy crop would have. Relative Feed values (RFV)are also proved to be higher in Teff hay meaning higher quality, better intake, higher digestibility, and fewer additional needs to supplement the diet of the horse.
Mark Ferguson at Sugar Loaf Farms in Middlebrook, Virginia and in connection with Homestead Sport Horses in Waynesboro, Virginia has started his first crop of Teff hay with much excitement and anticipation. “As a grower we are at the mercy of the weather, we have to take what we get, rain or shine. And it seems the Teff hay though will gives us more leeway because of it being a drought resistant yet grows wonderfully in very rainy conditions, “ was Mr. Ferguson's’ comment on why he choice to grow Teff. “We also researched and found that Teff is very disease free and pest free even without the use of insecticides or fungicides. Down side is it's an annual and mush be ground every year.
Even from an economical stand point Teff just makes sense to produce. We can average yields of 4 to 7 tons an acre of hay with minimal maintained to the fields. Keeping fueling cost of tractors, balers, and other equipment used for producing hay lower. This in return helps the horse owner to keep their prices more realistic and to be able to feed high quality hay to their horse.” Sugar Loaf Farms and Homestead Sport Horses are work with also their Augusta County Extension agent with Virginia Tech to help gather farther research and information for hopes that teff will be looked at more. “It’s very important for horse owners to know what their horses hay nutritional values are. We test and offer results to our clients so they know exactly what is in their hay they are feeding. More clients should analyze their hay as much as what is in there grain.”
Teff hay is first planted after the last chance of frost. There after it is then matured at around 45-50 days for prime quality cutting. It is not unheard of for growers to get up to 5 cuttings in a year off the Teff fields. It is an annual so must be reseeded every year. Many have used Teff as a rotational crop for Alfalfa or rye as to keep pastures in optimal functional use year round. It also has a very shallow root system which makes undesirable for grazing pastures year round.
For more information
What is Teff or TIffany Hay? An overview