Chickweed in hay?

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Well-Known Member
Feb 3, 2005
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I called and talked to my hayman this week. I usually buy a combination of alfalfa/blue grass and orchard grass for my pregnant mares. This year he said that his first cutting would have some chickweed in it. I Googled it and seems it is okay for horses to have some, especially to roll in for parasites but is it okay for pregnant mares to eat? I really don't find anything that says one way or the other about it. With the drought here last year and hay in short supply and expensive I don't know whether to pass on this or not? Is chickweed something that would go away by second cutting (assuming we have one that is?). He did not say how much he had in it. This man has always supplied me with very high quality hay and I appreciate him giving me the heads up on this before he drives up with 1000 bales and then tells me. Maybe the chickweed is a result of the drought conditions we had.

I would appreciate any information on this. I would hate to pass up hay if it would not be a problem. Then again, I don't want to lose foals or mares if it is.
I am afraid I know NOTHING about chickweed, other than that I've heard the name-don't know if it's one we have out here in the dry Southwest?? BUT, I will say that I really don't like hay with ANY weed in it, because even if there are no OTHER reasons, I don't want that weed being 'seeded' onto my property by passing through my horses! If the hay was cut before the weed is mature enough to reproduce, then that might NOT be a problem--but as a general rule, I would have REAL issues with ANY weed in my hay.

For instance--it was hard to get really GOOD grass hay here last year. Most all of our decent grass hay has to come from elsewhere--CO, usually. The 'pretty good' orchard grass hay I got had some bales that are loaded with a thistle, that has WICKED tiny thorns on it-PERFECT for burrowing into the soft tissue inside a miniature's mouth...I put up with picking it out of one bale(took me LOTS of extra time preparing feed that way...
!)--so when I opened ANOTHER bale w/ the same problem, I retied it, and it is going to be RETURNED for credit to the feed store! I did the same thing w/ a bale that was loaded w/ tansy mustard that I got from a local supplier....the horse's will eat around it, but I am NOT paying nearly $10/bale for THAT junk!! GRRRR! And I SURELY don't want it growing here!!

I learned my lesson years ago when a lady sent several 1st cut alfalfa bales up with her mare that was here to be bred(I quit doing THAT, too!) that had a bunch of another kind of mustard in it. Even though that mare was NEVER turned out here, that lousy weed started popping up all around, and I fought it for YEARS--even now, I see a few sprouting, and pull them up---and it's been, like, 22 years!! (I have the eyes of a EAGLE for weeds, and nails on the ground, etc.-better to PREVENT problems than to have to fix them, IMO!)

Tansy mustard can be a real problem in first cut alfalfa around here, but the best farmers now spray for it early, and then it ISN'T. I'd want to see and open a bale....all that said, it's your situation, and since you know it best, you are the only one whose opinion really matters!

Good luck!

Chickweed is a very common winter annual weed in southeastern NC. Actually, it's a whole family of weeds, all of which grow best during the cool seasons, and die off before the full heat of summer. I pull tons of it out of my flower beds and garden. My daughter calls it "chickenweed," because the chickens just love it. My goats scarf it down like nobody's business. Even my mule, Betsy, seems to like it, and she can be picky about weeds (she won't touch Henbit, for example.)

I don't know about any toxicity issues as far as pregnant mares, but I'm betting that if you have any weeds in your pasture at all, you probably have chickweed at this time of the year. And yes, it most likely will be gone by the second cutting ( I have faith there will be one!)
The chickweed we have in our area is absolutely harmless to anything that should choose to eat it. In fact it is safe for human consumption and my mother used to pick it and boil it like spinach when we were kids (along with things like fireweed, fiddle heads and dandelion leaves) OK now you all think I'm some hillbilly lol. We ate a lot of wild food when I was young and chickweed was one of the least unusual. I wouldn't worry about your mares eating it if its the same thing. You could contact your...ummm... I think you call them county extension agents or something, we would contact our ag department.
Thanks for the imput. Helps a lot. I usually get 2nd and 3rd cuttings from him and it has been great for years. I think he just wants to make sure his good customers get SOME hay and so he is thinking of offering his first cutting to me to be sure. I may see how the rain goes and if he thinks there will be a second cutting and try for that one instead. If the chickweed is a cool climate weed, by mid June/July it should be pretty well dormant.

Margo, I hate weeds too. We had a guy come 10 years ago and spread lime with his truck. But he just finished hauling chicken manure before he got to us. Long story short, we had a crop of weeds that would not quit!!! Took years to finally get it all gone. Never again!!!!

From what I had read it was as safe as plantain which is eaten by humans around here (I am a hillbilly) so it probably is safe. I just worry too much. As far as our "county extension agents" here, they are totally worthless. I called for them to come look at some hay I thought was moldy. I knew more then they did....what a joke. Some places actually have agriculture agents that know about animals. Ours know about how to stay in the office and do nothing. Grr. Tax money NOT at work.

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