Oats: hay quality for export and domestic markets

Page last updated: Thursday, 5 October 2017 - 2:02pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Quality parameters

Good colour and aroma, sweet taste and fine texture are of major importance to Japanese buyers. Hay processing companies in WA also grade based on nutritional value. The number of grades and even grading systems differ between hay processors. Some companies have five grades, others have four and some grade based on a 100 points system. The emphasis on particular parameters is also different between processors and is subject to change depending on the season. Contact your hay processor when planning your program to determine whether their requirements suit you.

Interest in oat hay for the dairy, feedlot and horse industries has increased in recent years due to the improvements in hay quality standards brought about by demand from the export market. In most cases Grade 2 hay will be sold by exporters to the domestic market, however annual quality requirements will depend on the price of alternative product used in livestock rations. In many cases the domestic market is loyal to suppliers who continually supply the right product throughout the year and can deliver on time.

Neutral detergent fibre and acid detergent fibre

Neutral detergent fibre represents the cell wall contents of the plant material and is made up of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Acid detergent fibre measures the indigestible fibre in the plant and is made up of cellulose and lignin. Fibre is essential for good rumen function and health. Animals are able to digest hemicellulose and accessable components of the cellulose, but not lignin.

Water soluble carbohydrate

Water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) is a measure of plant sugars and is used as a guide to palatability. The sugars are an important source of energy to the animal but they are not the only plant component that affects the acceptance of hay.

Digestible dry matter

Digestible dry matter (DDM) is the difference between the dry matter consumed and that excreted in faeces expressed as a percent of the dry matter consumed. DDM is generally measured by an in vitro laboratory procedure calibrated against feedstuff of known DDM values determined from feeding trials with live animals, usually sheep.

Annual ryegrass toxicity

Annual ryegrass toxicity (ARGT) risk must be minimised in export hay. All export hay must be subjected to a compulsory sampling and testing protocol designed to ensure that there is a minimum risk of it being contaminated by the bacterium that causes ARGT. Livestock deaths caused by ARGT poisoning from Australian hay or straw exports in an importing country could devastate the Australian hay and straw export industry.

If contamination by the bacterium is a potential problem, look to implement an ARGT management program through the introduction of twist fungus or Safeguard ryegrass.


Export hay requires a nil presence of toxic plants and double gees. Most processors have a limit of 1% of broad leaf plants and 5% of other cereals/rye grass/wild oats.

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