Feeding Your Horse Haylage
If you are considering investing in your own horse but have not cared for a horse before then it is important to think about feed. Providing your horse haylage can be an important element of their diet so here’s everything you need to know.
What is Haylage?
Haylage is a replacement for hay. To create haylage, grass is grown in the same way as for hay but it is left to dry out for less time and so features more moisture. It is then formed into bales which are compressed to roughly 65% of their original size. The natural process of fermentation preserves the grass as haylage and it offers around 90% of the nutritional value of grass. Unlike hay, it does not feature dust and spores and so is a better option for horses with dust allergies or those suffering from coughs.
The Benefits of Haylage
Feeding your horse haylage is an excellent source of fibre and this is crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Horses naturally browse for their food and so eat little and often. Working their way through haylage more closely replicates their natural diet than eating buckets of feed which they will consume in a short period of time. Eating haylage may also alleviate boredom. Haylage is a good source of energy and protein and can help to prevent or manage respiratory problems.
How Much Haylage?
BHS Stage 3 guidelines state that a horse in light or medium work which is kept stabled most of the time should be provided with 2.5% of its body weight in food. Roughly 75% of its diet should be forage in the form of hay or haylage. The right quantity of haylage will depend on how much exercise your horse is getting and the amount of available grazing.
Haylage should not be fed to horses which are prone to laminitis due to the high protein content. It is best fed on the floor as long as the floor is clean and free of mud. Feeding from the floor is more natural and benefits horses’ respiratory system and back muscles. It is, therefore, best to avoid haylage nets or racks. If you cannot use the floor, use low level feeders instead.
Storage of Haylage
Try to avoid storing the haylage where cats or dogs could scratch the bales or climb on them. Always handle the bales with care and if a bale becomes punctured it should be used within one week or within 4 days if the weather is warm. Check that your haylage wrapping is not damaged when it is delivered. If you discover any haylage which is wet this could be a sign of additional fermentation and so the haylage should not be used.
Do not feed your horse haylage that has white patches of mould. Check that your haylage is not rotten and take care that there is no dead animal matter nearby or the haylage could develop the toxin botulism.
Any uneaten haylage in either the field of the stable should be discarded daily and a fresh supply offered instead.