Teff Hay seems to have suddenly appeared as a hay option for many horse owners and because it is sold as a low starch low sugar hay it is starting to be recommended in place of Rhodes Grass Hay.
BUT, if you are lucky enough to have access to Rhodes Grass Hay, I wouldn’t be eager to swap. Here is why:
1. Rhodes Grass Hay is low in oxalate, containing approximately 2.5 to 3 g/kg of oxalate.
Teff Hay is moderate to high in oxalate at 10 to 12 g/kg. This means Teff needs careful supplementation of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to prevent it from causing Bighead Disease. With Rhodes being so low in oxalate Bighead is not an issue (though you do still need to make sure you correctly balance the diet for minerals and vitamins as forages rarely contain enough to meet a horse’s requirement).
2. Rhodes Grass Hay is more reliable and consistent when it comes to the low starch, low sugar characteristic.
From the analyses we have seen coming through here at FeedXL Teff can be high in starch, with one analysis sent through showing an as-fed starch content of 7.1% and total NSC of of 13.7% which for a laminitic horse is going to be too high. While soaking would more than likely bring this non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) level back down to safe levels it makes for much more time consuming feeding… so if you have access to Rhodes Grass it would be much easier to use this.
3. Teff Hay causes some odd behavioural issues in some horses and this is normally associated with an alkaline fecal pH.
We have no way of explaining this, and it doesn’t happen with all horses on Teff so I don’t know if all Teff Hay is the same or if there is a certain variety that causes this issue.
So while Teff gives people in cooler climates a low NSC option which is welcome, it is not yet well understood and not without its issues. If I had a choice between Teff and Rhodes I would go with Rhodes Hay every time.