When it comes to feeding your horse or pony, hay is a very common choice, of course — as it should be! Although alongside all the great attributes of hay, come some less favourable characteristics. These characteristics can start to cause problems for your horse, but if you’re contemplating how to mitigate these issues, we may have the solution.
What’s the problem with hay?
Hay is a breeding ground for mites, fungal spores and bacteria. That’s before we even mention dust.
As a species, horses have rather delicate respiratory systems. According to this study, a figure as high as 88% of all horses may suffer from inflammatory airway disease (mild asthma). Recurrent airway obstruction and allergic bronchitis produce unpleasant symptoms of wheezing, coughing and laboured breathing, caused by an allergic reaction to dust and mould spores – which can be found in hay, if not correctly produced and stored.
Another health risk found in hay is toxins. Harmful secondary compounds produced by moulds can be formed in the field, during harvest or if stored in suboptimal conditions. Although they may be tricky to detect, these toxins can have respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurologic, reproductive effects, in worst case scenarios leading to death.
Dust can also be a huge problem for owners themselves, having to deal with such a high volume of it every day. Particularly those who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, yet cannot avoid hay whilst feeding their horses.
So how can you avoid these risks?
In recent times, hay steamers have grown in popularity as the ‘must-have’ gadget on the yard. They heat the hay to a high temperature, removing the dust, fungi and bacteria. The stumbling block for most people with these devices is the cost. Heavy investment is required, along with maintenance and any repair costs you may incur. Cheaper alternatives are available, but there is uncertainty around the efficacy of these, due to the reduced insulation. In this case, the heat may just encourage bacteria and fungus growth.
Then there’s the time required. Another job to take into account. Particularly if you have multiple animals to take care of, or on a busy yard, a lot of time can be spent loading, unloading and reloading the steamer. Of course, its also worth considering the water and electrical costs a hay steamer would incur as well.
Once hay has been steamed, the effects will only last for a short time and the hay needs to be used within 24 hours. Therefore, it’s a job that will need doing every day and not in advance for the most effective results.
Alongside steaming, many people soak their hay. This dilutes the hay and effectively means you’re rinsing away a lot of the nutrients. If you do this, its important to be mindful of your horse’s nutrient intake!
Not convinced by the hay steamer?
Here at Baled our process meets you in the middle. Our KME machinery vigorously pulls the hay strands apart, getting rid of all the dust (which is deposited elsewhere) and shaking out the bacteria. Leaving the hay completely de-dusted and de-stoned, rid of all those nasties, along with their health risks. Then its banded or bagged, and ready to be eaten! Convenient, yet long lasting, Baled hay is the ideal alternative to the hay steamer method.
If you’d like to discuss your hay requirements with us, contact us here to explore the Baled way!