Split Tree Farm  

Return to Home Page

 Maps, Directions       NW Georgia Weather 

Hay production has been discontinued due to high cost of fertilizing, etc -- Dec 2016

2013 Hay Crop Update

Spring and summer rains have reduced the normal quality of much Southeastern hay due to baling delays past prime condition.  None of our cool grass -- mixed grasses -- hay has gotten wet. There were a few close misses but we harvested very clean roughage horse hay.   We sprayed 60 acres for weeds and fertilized them this spring with 300 lbs/acre of 19-19-19.  This hay TLC (all thistles removed) produced a good crop with the experienced baling help of neighbor Billy Clark.  As of August 1, 2013, we have about 1,200 square bales of excellent horse hay, though with a bit more brown, thin fescue tops/stalks than normal due to rain delays.  This is available at the barn for $4/bale, and less for 100 or more picked up.  We can arrange delivery within 25 miles.  The barn has drive through access for quick loading.  We also have about 15 round bales at $25/bale.  Second cutting will begin in August at the first clear weather window.  Other pastures are being used for grazing or just resting and being clipped to prepare for next year.  We use five trailers to bring the hay into the 8,000 square foot barn to avoid risk of rain and then unload in the cool of evening and morning.  The open air barn allows hay to remain dry.

The University of Georgia farm extension testing service's Feed and Forage Analysis Report rated samples of May cuttings  at 9.2% protein with a TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients) score of 100.4, above average for this rainy, cool weather year.  June cuttings scored 11% protein with a TDN of 86.8, ok for "low calorie," continuous feeding roughage grass hay but less than our past years of 110+ TDN scores that won or placed in the SE hay contest since the mid-90s.

Sarasota friend/customers:   We plan to bring samples of this hay to friends and potential customers near Sarasota and possibly Ocala, FL after the second cutting is done and test results are back.  Our Paso Fino mares like the hay and clean it up so it passes that tough test.  You can leave this mixed grass hay in your stalls all day long for the most natural way horses like to feed and avoid the risks of hot, high protein or very thin stem hays.  Just how to affordably ship the hay to SW Florida is a problem yet to be solved and we welcome suggestions to test this market alternative to local purchasers, where high supply means very low prices.  Sid has talked with several horse owners in equestrian communities near Sarasota, where he was able to visit for the last two winters and explore properties for sale or rent with the idea of using barn space for winter hay sales from Split Tree's NW Georgia barn.  Contact Sid at 423 618 6651 if you're interested. 

Photos from June 2013 -- 1) in barn  2)row  3)Billy Clark baling  4) Billy Clark's baler  5) Sid's mares on new bales (double click to enlarge)



1997 Massey Ferguson tractor Feb 4, 2011: We have about 800 good fescue/grass square hay bales at $5/bale and about 300 excellent, award-winning organic fescue square bales at $7/bale. This clean, green organic hay took second place based on total nutrients in the cool grass category in the Southeastern Hay Contest 423-618-6651, Sid

June 24, 2009Buy your maintenance horse hay now for 2009 at $4/bale for high nutritional value. 

Several thousand excellent green, clean fescue/orchard mountain grass hay bales are ready for your horse now.  Four trailers are loaded and ready for quick delivery in the area.  You have easy access with truck and trailer at a nearby old carpet warehouse with concrete floor where the hay is stored.  The hay fields were clipped all of 2008 (not baled) and fertilized with chicken litter.   The fields have had no commercial chemical fertilizer nor weed sprays for three years and the hay can be said to be organic, although formal certification has not yet been requested.   Call Sid at 423 618 6651.

June 2009 Analysis #1             June 2009 Analysis #2

Oct. 10, 2008:   Due to the lack of a barn after the Aug. 2007 fire, I did not cut hay in the 2008 season.  And also because the pastures need resting and fertilizing after two years of severe drought.   A new pole shed/barn was completed in October 2009.

Update:  July 23, 2007:  Split Tree's first cutting in May 07 is sold out.  We hope for rain to make a second cutting.

Update:  June 9, 2007:   First cutting is completed with one-half the yield of 2006 cutting, which was one-half the yield of the 2005 cutting of 10,000 bales. The hay, all square bales, is young, green, clean, tender, and excellent early May hay--very high quality but not the best we've harvested because we could not fertilize again without rain.. Our Paso Fino, Polka, eats it like candy so it must be good.  About 1,000 bales remain unsold. With luck, we will win the SE hay contest for the third time for highest RFQ, relative forage quality, and the 113 RFQ highest score for this cutting might have a chance with the ground so dry.  The leaves did not grow after mid-May and are not growing now.   Due to extreme lack of rain and more than half reduction in bales from last year and also higher prices for fuel, twine, fertilizer, and equipment, prices are $6.00/bale in the barn.    After September, if any inventory remains, an increase may be necessary if the drought continues.  Of course, we hope Mother Nature will bring rains so we get a second cutting of our award winning fescue/orchard grass (cool grass maintenance hay) but chances are low.  We also are baling a few nearby fields but so far that has been sold out of the field to neighbors and property owners.  Call us if you have a clean field needing baling that is south of Chattanooga in the vicinity of Chickamauga, GA.

Lower hay yields May 07 New lab, Pipsqueak, monitors all hay baling; note wide spread rows showing much lower yields per acre in May 07.
Regards, Sid    706 539 2485

  New Paso Fino mare, "Tango"  Updated:  03/01/2017    

Split Tree Farm again won the Southeastern Hay Contest in 2006 for RFQ (TDN) in both first and second place, but with lower values due to the bad weather. Copies of the analysis are available by emailing sid [at] splittree.org.

DROUGHT UPDATE:  To see how extreme our drought is, go to the Univ. of Georgia farm and weather page:   www.georgiaweather.net.  NW Georgia is listed as "severe drought condition," or the conditions expected once in 20 years; "extreme" is once in 50 years, which applies to south Georgia.   The report says "Little if any relief from the drought is anticipated in the foreseeable future" because normal GA summer weather is dry.           U.S. drought monitor map, May 22:   http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/index.html

Make Your Horses Happy
      with Split Tree Farm's
                Award Winning Cool Grass Hay

Don't let your horse go to fat with hot, high protein hay; feed our cool grass maintenance hay with 113+ Relative Forage Quality (GA forage test labs). Call Sid Hetzler at 706.539.2485 or email him at sid [at] splittree.org.  Due to drought, fuel, and fertilizer cost increases/rain loss, the price is $6.00/barn, increase due to expected drought shortage.   We provide GA lab analysis of all hay cut:  heavily fertilized triple 19, weed free, rain free, 50 lb/bales average.
Located at the SE intersections of GA Rt 193 and W. Cove Road in scenic McLemore Cove on a high ridge next to Lookout Mountain.



  For 2007 bookings/field pickup, call Sid Hetzler, 706/539-2485.  OR email Sid at:  sid [at] splittree.org.

Farm News:   Split Tree Farm's square bales won first place for "Cool Season Grass Hay"  (fescue/orchard grass/grass) at the 2005 and 2006 Tri-State Hay Show at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, Moultrie, GA.   Our 2005 hay tested at 123 total points for the new Relative Forage Quality rating system (and 116 in 2006 with both first and second places won) and was by far the highest tested in Georgia, Florida, Alabama.  That's quite a feat for our first year back in the hay business on our 100 acres of ridge pasture in McLemore Cove next to Lookout Mountain.   But the real test was the horses.  All our individual and stable customers reported that their horses liked our hay better than all other hay bales they had bought and want more next year.   We fertilized our quick drying ridge top fields heavily with 300 lbs/acre 19-19-19 in March 06 but did not fertilize this year due to lack of rain.   Fifty acres were limed as recommended in June 2006.
Update:  The May 2007 cuttings of three fields had an analysis of 113.5, 106, and 86 for some sold hay that caught a rare shower; the 113 RFQ hay remains in the barn.

GA lab analysis of 2005 cuttings; excellent digestibility and protein--PDF format for printing or viewing on all computers.  We spot spray for leafy plants, such as thistle, and bulk spray for weeds and make sure hay is well cured before baling.  With fertilizer and fuel so high we'vehad to increase prices.  It's good hay, some stable owners say the best in the area,  and will make your horse smile.   2007 analysis available.

Sid Hetzler       June 9, 2007      Email at:  sid [at] splittree.org.


        Return to Home Page  
  Brand new New Holland  570 baler 
1997 Massey Ferguson tractor  Used 1997 Massy Ferguson 393 tractor added May 2007.
  Loughridge Equipment in LaFayette supplies all hay equipment.

Split Tree Farm Hay Barn

Horse Hay Bales on one of 4 trailers  Colby, Wyatt, and Richard - June 06

high protein, digestibility;
clean, heavy fertilized;
rain free grass hay:
fescue/orchard grass/field grass mix

Delivery available

call Sid @ 706 539 2485

or email:  sid [at] splittree.org

Split Tree Farm

(at SE corner of Hwy 193 & W Cove Rd in McLemore Cove)

Chickamagua, GA 30707 

     Walker County maps  


Articles on Buying Hay for Your Horse

(See article below)--One trend is toward feeding more grass hay to horses. Grass hay tends to be higher in fiber than legume hay, and provides bulk in the ration. It's also lower in calories.  “Grass hay is great for maintenance, and gives idle horses more time to eat while giving them a chance to consume fewer calories,” Rodiek says. “However, it is frequently more variable in quality and palatability than legume hay.”  (Split Tree Farm recommends that buyers require state lab analysis before large purchases; hay samples are submitted following each cutting).  Note that grass hay may need supplementation for growing horses, pregnant and lactating mares and working horses.  We do not recommend fescue hay in the last trimester of foaling, although data is uncertain on the effects of fescue on mares in foal and it may depend on the condition of the hay.

See Univ. of Minnesota's "Guide to Buying Hay" below

Educate Equestrians:   Alfalfa vs Grass Hay

Feb 1, 2005 12:00 PM
by Lora Berg
From Hay & Forage Growers Magazine, Feb. 2005

Hay growers should help horse owners choose the best hay for their animals, says an equine nutritionist at California State University, Fresno.

Horse owners lack nutritional knowledge and often make buying decisions based on other considerations, says Anne Rodiek.

“Many non-nutritional factors influence the horseman's choice of hay,” Rodiek explains. “These include price, availability, palatability and, unfortunately, also hearsay and old wives' tales.”

They want a consistent supply of soft, green, leafy hay that looks and smells good.

“They don't want variation in the look or quality of the hay,” she says. Horse owners also want uniform bales that are small and easy to handle.

Their hay should have a nutrient content that matches their horses' nutrient needs, Rodiek stresses. It may be a combination of alfalfa and grass hay. The best hay for horses is palatable, uniform and free of foreign matter and mold, she says.

Horse owners are divided about the value of alfalfa hay for horses. Some see it as a rich source of protein and calcium and a good source of energy compared to other forages. Some feed only alfalfa hay with no apparent ill effects. Others, however, feel strongly that alfalfa hay doesn't offer balanced nutrition and should be fed sparingly, or not at all.

Alfalfa has been blamed for a variety of health problems, including developmental orthopedic disease in growing horses. But some of the allegations have been refuted in research studies, Rodiek says.

“Alfalfa hay is still a very good feed for horses,” she states. “It is high in nutrients and palatable. It is great for growth, pregnancy and lactation. Alfalfa's protein, lysine, energy and mineral contributions to the diet are valuable. While it's excessive in protein and calcium compared to nutrient requirements, these excesses are not primary nutritional causes of developmental orthopedic disease.”

One trend is toward feeding more grass hay to horses. Grass hay tends to be higher in fiber than legume hay, and provides bulk in the ration. It's also lower in calories.

“Grass hay is great for maintenance, and gives idle horses more time to eat while giving them a chance to consume fewer calories,” Rodiek says. “However, it is frequently more variable in quality and palatability than legume hay.”

Grass hay needs supplementation for many classes of horses, particularly growing horses, pregnant and lactating mares and working horses. It's insufficient in energy and could also be low in protein and minerals.

Rodiek urges growers to help horse owners make good decisions when buying hay.

“Ask them what they think their horses need. Most horse owners will say, ‘I want them to eat the hay, I don't want them to be bored, and I want them to meet their energy requirements.’ Then you can help the customers learn how to find the hay that meets their horses' needs.”

How to Choose Hay for Horses

By Maribel Fernandez, Extension Educator; Ron Genrick, Assurance Equine Feeds; Harlan Anderson, DVM and Hay Producer, and Krishona Martinson, Regional Extension Educator   2005


Characteristics to Describe and Evaluate Hays for Horses

Listed below you will find some of the characteristics of hay that should be used to evaluate and select hay for horses. We have included characteristics that many horse owners and hay producers already use, as well as others that are important to consider, but are not widely used yet. Many times the horse owner as well as the hay producer bases their opinion on recommendations that were developed from research done for ruminants. We now know that ruminant principles do not always apply to horses. Along with the description of each characteristic, we have included an explanation of how it affects the horse.

  1. Content.

Percent of grass and/or legumes in the hay, as well as specific kind of grass or legume.

Content affects protein

In general, legumes (like alfalfa and clover) have higher protein content than grasses. Keep in mind that protein levels of hay are also affected by stage of maturity at time of cutting. Note that the leaves are the main plant structure where protein is stored.

In many cases, pure alfalfa hay has more protein than what the horse needs. Although this will not affect the horse’s health, it will increases water requirements and cause more urination that is also high in ammonia. This means the protein is just being wasted. On the other hand, young horses that are developing have higher protein requirements, and alfalfa hay is an excellent supplement for them.

Content affects fiber

The fiber from grasses is more digestible than that of alfalfa and other legumes at the same stage of maturity.

How it affects the horse

Horses have low requirements for protein that can be met fairly easily; on the other hand, the equine digestive system is designed to have a constant input of digestible fiber. Therefore, it is more important to pay attention to amount of digestible fiber and energy content, rather than protein content of the hay.

How to determine content

Besides asking the producer, you can open a bale and analyze it. Legumes have round stems and round or oval leaflets that attach to the stem, individually or in groups. The leaves from grasses are long and narrow.

Other considerations

  1. Stage

As forage plants mature, the nutritional value changes. They have more fiber, however, it is less digestible, and the levels of available (digestible) energy and protein decrease as the forage ages. Indicators of maturity in the case of legumes are flowers, and for grasses, well developed seed heads indicate maturity. Thick stems in both cases are indicators of maturity.

Stage affects type of fiber

“Hay bellies” develop when horses get fed forage that has too much non-digestible fiber and too little available energy. As plants mature, it will take longer for the bacteria and protozoa in the horse’s digestive system to digest it, causing hay bellies.

How this affects the horse

Grasses harvested at early boot stage (when the seed head is just starting to form), have excellent fiber digestibility and energy availability, and will produce very leafy and soft hay that smells sweet. This hay is very appealing to the horse and provides excellent nutrition. Keep in mind that even grass hay cut at early maturity stages makes hay that can meet the basic maintenance nutrient requirements of an adult horse. Furthermore, legumes, even at very mature stages, will still meet the nutritional requirements. The catch is that mature legume hay might not be soft enough for the horse to want to eat it.

What to look for in grass hay

Look for seed heads or that are very small, this indicates early maturity stages. If you can see mature seed heads, the fiber content will have gone up, is less digestible, and the hay may be coarser. Even so, if the hay is put up correctly, it might still be soft and sweet and attractive to the horse.

What to look for in legume hay

Legume hay is more controversial. When plants are harvested young (about 10% flower stage) the hay will have more leaves, thinner stems and be soft. The protein content will be very high and you will probably be paying for extra protein that the horse does not need and will convert into ammonia. Mature legumes make hay that does not exceed the protein level required by horses, but unfortunately, it tends to be very coarse.

  1. Leaves and Stems

The leave to stem ratio is important because it affects nutrition and softness. Leaves have more protein and digestible energy and less fiber than stems. More leaves also means softer hay.

  1. Touch

How it affects the horse

Horses’ mouth, lips and tongue, are very soft; hence, softer hay will be consumed more readily, and there will be less waste. Even though some hay may meet or pass the nutritional requirements of a horse, it also has to be attractive and edible, or it will be wasted.

What to look for

Bales that feel soft and you would not mind sticking your bare hand and arm into. Make sure to run your fingers down the stem, seed heads or leaves to try and feel for stickers or sharp hairs.

  1. Smell

Sweet smell is attractive to people and horses, and it is also a good indication of having readily available energy (sugar). Much like soft touch, a sweet smell is an incentive for the horse to eat the hay and get its full nutritional value.

  1. Color

How it affects the horse

Green is more attractive to those of us taking care of the animals, and it also is a good indication of having vitamin A. Bleached color indicates exposure to sunlight or rain and very likely oxidation of vitamin A, but note that other very essential nutrients are still there! Despite the color, any type of hay needs to be supplemented with an appropriate vitamin-mineral mix.

What to look for

Green is very appealing and a good insurance of quality, but in bad years do not get too hung up on color. If in doubt, send a sample for a nutritional analysis. Be sure to require an equine analysis. Analysis done for ruminants will not reflect the nutritional value for the horse.

  1. Crop

How it affects the horse

Plants that grow under cooler temperatures build more digestible fiber. Therefore, 1st crop hay may have more fiber, and the fiber will be easier for the horse to digest and use.

What to look for

Just knowing whether it is 1st, 2nd or 3rd crop does not predict nutrient content. The stage of maturity at which the hay was cut is the foundation of its nutritional value. In general, 1st and 2nd crop hays are allowed to “grow older” in order to improve yield, and 3rd and 4th crops are cut younger because winter does not allow waiting longer (See “Stage” for more details). The way hay is cured and stored will affect the nutritional value as well. When forage plants are cut, they will continue to use up the soluble sugars in the cell. The faster they dry, the faster this process will stop. This process will continue as long as there is enough moisture, even after being baled. This causes the bale to heat up increasing the risk for molding or even burning. When you buy hay, look for bales that have been stored inside; touch inside the bale and take a sample. If the sample is not dry and not warm (much less hot!) nor moldy, it’s a safe bet that the hay will remain the same quality if you store it well in your barn.

  1. Mold

How it affects the horse

Mold is detrimental if the horse inhales it, plus it has the potential to be toxic and/or upset the digestive system as well. The use of propionic acid is safe for horses and can be used to prevent molding of hay and grain. The horse has a very low pain threshold and can not tolerate the effect of certain molds or toxins to the gastrointestinal tract which is reflected as colic. Heaves is a bigger problem when dealing with moldy hay. A horse with heaves should not be exposed to mold spores or dust.

What to look for

Before buying a truckload of hay, be sure to inspect the inside of at least one bale. If the hay has been in storage inside and it is not moldy, then the risk of it getting mold is very low. Do not buy hay that is moldy, as it will only get worse.

Visitors:       Updated:  03/01/2017     Return to Split Tree home page