Hay after a winter in storage
If you’re thinking of steaming your horse’s hay, then there’s probably no better time as hay supplies start to run out, there is less to choose from and the quality both in terms of nutrition and hygiene is likely to be at its lowest having deteriorated during storage.
The moisture content when baled and how the hay has been stored will affect how much quality has been lost during storage but inevitably the longer hay is stored the more value it looses.
How hay is stored
If the hay has been stacked on grass, chippings or concrete then moisture will have come up through the bottom tiers degrading the hay especially the layer on the bottom. Wooden pallets are an ideal base to store hay to help insulate hay from the wet ground and provide ventilation.
If hay has been stored outside or in a roof-only shed and been exposed to sunlight then this will bleach the hay, causing it to lose nutritional value, especially protein and vitamin A.
What happens during storage
Even when hay at low moisture levels is stored (20% or less) there is some loss due to respiration and low numbers of microorganisms, but this is constant across hay types and essentially unavoidable. At higher moisture levels (above 20%) where mould growth is likely to be more visibly detectable, dry matter losses are greater, and significant levels of heating (which also lowers forage quality) occur due to microbial activity.
The hygiene quality of the forage is determined by the amount of mould, bacteria and other contaminants it contains. It has long been recognized that poor hygiene status of forage can adversely affect the health of the respiratory tract in horses.
In addition, Kaya et al (2009) showed that horses fed poor hygienic quality hay are significantly more susceptible to colic than those fed good hay. Colic is the biggest cause of death of horses in UK and this suggests that decreasing the hygienic quality of hay could increase the risk of the horse suffering from colic. It is therefore important that the forage you feed is of good quality and hygienically clean.
Research has shown that purifying hay and haylage using high temperature steaming from the inside out will improve the hygienic quality by killing the mould and bacteria.
While soaking hay in water has been traditionally used to try to improve hay and make it less “dusty” it is counter-productive on several levels. Soaking leaches nutrients, actually increases bacteria, produces a polluting post-soak liquor and is messy and difficult to do especially during the winter.
High-temperature steaming using Haygain’s patented steam distribution method has none of these problems, improves the hygienic quality and reduces respirable dust by 99%.