As horseback riders seek to take advantage of riding in the great outdoors, they need to be aware that National Parks, National Forests and National Grasslands will generally have a policy in place that any forage or feed that is brought into the area needs to be weed seed free. Because there can be a hefty penalty, with fines up to $10,000 or 6 months of jail time, it is highly advisable that riders check in advance the requirements of specific locations prior to bringing feed or hay into the location.
The North American Weed Management Association (NAWMA) has established the accepted standards for forage or unprocessed hay as well as for cubes and pellets made of forages. The forage and unprocessed hay products will normally be identified by a bale tag or a twine of particular color. The price for these products will normally be higher than for uncertified products. Cubes and pellets will generally be identified by a certification tag indicating compliance with the North American Weed Free Forage Certification Program.
Riders can make a choice between long stem forage and pelleted or cubed products based on their feeding requirements and how the animals will be managed.
Commercially processed feed pellets and grain products that are processed by fine grinding along with heat treating and pelleting normally do not need to be certified as the processing is considered adequate to prevent the presence of viable weed seeds.
It is fairly common for riders to use both a certified forage/forage product and a commercially produced feed to meet the needs of animals while riding or packing into these great outdoor opportunities. As always, free choice salt and fresh clean water needs to be a part of the feeding program.
The basic principle of not introducing any non-native or noxious weeds needs to be carefully implemented to preserve the wonderful riding opportunities that are available.
There are multiple options to consider as a trip is planned. Various web sites can provide information about sources of forages in a given location. The website www.trailmeister.com is a very useful resource as well as the state Crop Improvement Associations and the specific National Park, National Forest or National Grassland web sites.