Crop corner is here to help you identify what is in your pasture and how it benefits your grazing animals.

Hay is a great supplementary feed when grass is in short supply, but how nutritious is it really? Hay can have a really good nutritional value, however, to have the maximum nutritional content, it must be cut at the right time, then dried and stored correctly. Most hay is cut between the budding and blooming phase of growth. The hay should then be allowed to dry fully and cure in the field before being bailed.

There are a variety of different hay categories of hay including legume, grass, cereal grain or a mixture of legumes and grass. Each hay type varies in its nutritional value. Legume hay and grass hay are the more common types available in New Zealand. Both tend to complement each other as feed and provide a balanced diet.

The table below directly compares legume hay and grass hay on their nutritional value:


Legues (eg. Lucerne/Alfalfa or Red Clover) 

Grass (eg. Timothy or Meadow) 


Less palatable as it is lower in starch & sugars 

Quite palatable 


More calories than grass hay 

Less calories than legume hay 


Lower fibre – approx 25% 

Higher fibre – approx 30% 


Higher protein – ranges from 15 to 21% 

Lower protein – approx 10% or less 

Mineral Levels 

Good calcium and phosphorus levels – calcium approx 1.28% 

Lower mineral levels – calcium less than 1% 

Cereal grain (eg. oats or barley) are less common for hay in New Zealand. Instead, barley straw is commonly used for bedding. As a straw it contains less moisture than hay. It is fine for animals to eat straw and it is actually high in fibre but relatively low in protein and energy.

It is important to remember that livestock have sensitive stomachs so you should keep their diet as consistent as possible. Any change from one kind of feed, or even one type of hay, to another should be done gradually so as not to upset their digestion.

Always check any hay or chaff for mould or dust before feeding. If there are any signs of mould do not feed!