BOTH hay and haylage provide great sources of fibre for your horses, however, there are some differences between them that can influence which you choose to feed.
Hay is usually a later cut, containing mature grass that is dried for a prolonged period before baling, this process is very weather dependent. Hay found in the UK and Ireland usually contains around 85% dry matter (DM).
Haylage is an earlier cut compared to hay, with a short drying period before baling and wrapping in several layers of plastic covering. The aim is to remove the oxygen and hold the moisture content. DM can vary from 50-70%.
Pros and Cons
– As haylage has a lower DM value, more haylage needs to be fed to meet daily DM requirements. For example, a 500kg horse would need 10kg of forage on dry matter basis per day. Haylage would need to be fed at 16.7kg per day if DM of the haylage was 60%.
– Hay can contain more dust and mould spores compared to haylage. Soaking or steaming can help reduce this or feeding haylage as an alternative may be a suitable option, particularly with horses suffering from respiratory conditions such as COPD.
– Haylage has a higher risk of spoilage when wrapped bales are exposed to air, once opened there is a small time-frame during which the bales must be used before they develop mould.
– Haylage and hay can be comparative with nutrient values, however, older hay or high legume-based hay, can help to reduce the calorie content and is often used when feeding horses at risk of laminitis or obesity.
Can you feed a forage only diet?
Preserved forages can provide enough calories to the diet without extra supplementation, however vitamin and mineral content begins to reduce as forages undergo the preservation process.
At Bluegrass, they recommend providing a balancer if feeding a forage only diet to support your horse’s vitamin and mineral requirements.
It is a good idea to perform an annual forage analysis to give you a better idea of the forage quality and suitability for your horses. Contact the Bluegrass Nutritional Helpline for more information on forage analysis.
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