Hay is simply the dried stalks of various types of grasses. It has many uses, but its most common one is typically livestock feed. When figuring out what type of hay to plant, consider many factors including usage, climate and harvesting techniques.
Alfalfa is one of the most common hays grown for livestock feeding. It is useful for cattle, horses, pigs, goats and sheep. Alfalfa has a high level of nutrients and contains calcium which is important for livestock growth and development. It is early to flower, allowing it to be harvested earlier in the year than many other hays. Alfalfa does well in most sections of the country and can quickly adapt to local growing conditions. Most animals prefer the taste of alfalfa hay over most other varieties.
Timothy grass is most often used as a feed for horses, but is a popular rabbit feed as well. It is high in protein and a strong over-wintering plant-- two qualities that make it an important grass to plant. It grows wild across much of the United States but new, more productive varieties are available to farmers and growers by seed.
Red clover is useful as a livestock feed in two ways. In its young growth stage, it is a high quality legume that can be fed fresh to grazing animals and poultry. It also makes a very high quality hay that is high in iron and protein. It is more delicate than other popular hays like alfalfa, so it is not often used in larger operations.
Orchard grass makes a high quality hay with balanced nutrient proportions. Because it doesn't have as high a yield as some other grasses, it is often not grown by large operations. Growing your own orchard grass, however, will yield many nutritional benefits for livestock. Orchard grass must be harvested young, however, as its nutritional benefits decrease with age.