Hay or Haylage this winter?

With the temperature dipping into single figures and many paddocks becoming waterlogged by heavy rain, most horses will now be spending at least part of their time indoors now. This means that most will be fed hay or haylage, either in small or big bales. Choosing the right product for your horse and situation does require some thought.

With the dry summer in 2013 most of the hay which has been made is good quality. This is both because the drying time between cutting and baling has been completed without rain, but also as the dry and cold conditions in the spring meant a reduction in the fungal diseases which effect all green plants to some extent. Yellow rust and mildew in particular were at very low levels this year, resulting in many cases in lovely bright and green hay.

After last years travails producing good dry haylage, you are much more likely this year to find haylage which if anything is a bit on the dry side. It’s frightening how quickly grass can dry out in strong sun and wind, and a mechanical breakdown or other delay can lead to producing a product that looks a lot like wrapped hay! That said, as long as good quality rye grass (ie high sugar and at the right stage of growth) was produced in the first place, dry haylage can usually still be excellent forage. If low sugar grass like long established meadow grass is wrapped up when too dry it can go horribly dusty as it doesn’t have enough sugar to ferment fully.

Whether one decides to feed hay or haylage can depend on a number of factors. Even in a good year like this standard quality meadow hay may well no prescription pharmacy need soaking as it gets a bit older. On the other hand, it can be fed ad lib to even good doers or laminitics without making them scour or fizz up. Generally speaking it is lower in nutrients than haylage, so if your horse is in hard work a good quality hard feed will have to accompany it.

Haylage is often made from a high quality ryegrass for the reason alluded to earlier of needing a high enough sugar content to ferment fully. It also keeps its nutrients better than hay does as there is no reaction to the air as happens slowly with hay. This means that if your horse is prone to laminitis or to becoming very lively, care should be taken in selecting the right haylage. At Thorogoods we produce haylage from Timothy Grass and from threshed Rye Grass, both of which are higher in fibre than standard rye grass, so can be fed in greater quantities to vulnerable horses and ponies.

Small bale haylage can work out quite expensive per kilo, so if you have enough horses to use big bales haylage, or can share with others on the yard, then you could potentially save a lot of money!

At Thorogoods We Stock Both Hay and Haylage
We have no axe to grind here at Thorogoods as we have good supplies of both hay and haylage. We’re based in Essex and can deliver your hay products direct to you, or you are welcome to come and pick up from our location in Writtle.  If you would like any more advice on feeding and whether hay or haylage would suit you best then please give us a ring anytime!

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