Buying farm produce

Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.

The DoneDeal guide to buying farm produce



  • Ask the colour of the hay before you meet the seller
  • Hay that is silvery green in colour is best
  • Brown hay indicates that it was cut late
  • Greenish hay has retained most of its characteristics and nutrition
  • Hay with a green colour is good, provided it is dry


  • Check for dust
  • Dust causes respiratory problems in livestock
  • If the hay has low moisture, mould spores can become airborne causing ‘dust cough’ or ‘dust allergy’
  • One in five horses contract dust-related respiratory problems

Check the species

  • Horse owners will require a species of hay which is less powdery or dusty.
  • Cattle owners will use a wider variety of species.


  • Fertilisation of land makes for better nutrition in hay, so ask if the land has been fertilised – and with what.
  • Organic farmers cannot use fodder grown on land where inorganic fertilisers were used.


  • What shape of bales are they? Round or square?
  • Do you have a tractor to transport  round bales?
  • If not, will the seller deliver?
  • If the farmer can deliver to you, is there a charge?
  • Haylage has to be wrapped to stop it going mouldy
  • Are the bales the right size to suit your needs?
  • Do you need the amount on offer? Does it make economic sense?
  • Check for holes in the wrapping which may have been caused by rodents or birds
  • Ask how long it was wilted before being  baled
  • Ask about the dry matter content of the grass in the bale; 50% or more dry matter is desirable
  • Bales that weigh heavier can have a higher water content and are less nutritious


Pit silage

  • If buying a large amount of pit silage it is advisable to take a core sample and get it tested for nutrition value.
  • Find out the dry matter content and the digestibility of the silage
  • Find out if the fodder is ‘leafy’ or ‘stemmy’
  • High performance animals like horses prefer a leafy crop while stemmy fodder is suitable for cattle


  • Look for golden colours in straw.
  • If you see black spots, it may have moisture damage
  • Straw with high moisture content can go mouldy
  • Smell it. Musty smells are not good
  • Use common sense – if it doesn’t look right, it’s probably not

General advice

  • Ask what type of sward and what grass crop was used
  • Ask when the sward was ‘closed up’, or when grazing animals were taken off the land –this will indicate if the fodder is very leafy or stemmy.
  • Ask what the weather was like when the fodder was baled. If it was very rainy, nutrients will be washed away

Thanks to Padraig O’Kiely from Teagasc for sharing advice for potential buyers.