My grandpa cuts hay and he said that the first cut often has the least nutrition because it has been weathered from the winter. If you have alfalfa in the grass, the more cuts you make, the more alfalfa is going to be in the bale :)
There is a difference, I actually grow hay and the first cut is definitely a more nutritional way of feeding your horse. Our hay is 25% alfalfa and 75%timonthy. We usually reserve the second cut for round bales, or for cattle just because the alfalfa was grown too much making it harsher for the horses stomach and it has less nutrional value.
Hope this helps!
If there is no alfalfa in the hay it doesn't matter as much but if there is a percentage of alfalfa in your hay first cut has generally less alfalfa than second cut. Alfalfa has a deeper root system and grows fast in the hot summer so there is more percentage of it in second and third cuts
Alfalfa is protein rich and not good for young warmbloods under two
As it can speed growth and cause contracted tendons and OCD chips
My ideal horse hay I like 75% Timothy and 25% alfalfa but the same field second cut could be 50/50% of each and third cut over 50% alfalfa
Cows sheep and race horses generally like 2nd and 3rd Alfalfa rich hay
It's always good to analyze your hays nutrition. Most any feed store will hook you up with someone that will come and take a few core samples so you know exactly what you are feeding
Looks are deceiving
Good looking poking hay can have little nutritional value and crappy looking can sometimes be full of nutrition. All hay seems expensive these days so choose wisely. With good quality hay diet they require little if any grain