Feeding Hay and Haylage
Feeding hay and haylage to horses outside in winter can be a costly exercise. Horses outwintered consume 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in hay per day. This means a 500kg horse will consume around 12.5kg of hay daily.
How much Hay gets wasted in feeding?
It is important to feed forage in an equine hay feeder or horse hay saver of some kind. Studies can show that between 10 and 20% of hay can be lost in spoilage when fed loose on the ground, rather than in round bale hay feeders or some other kind of field hay feeder.
The main issues with loose feeding occur because horses may bed down on it, causing spoiling from faeces and treading it into the ground, contaminating the hay with dirt or sand that can lead to sand colic when ingested. In windy conditions, hay may be blown into the hedgerows and lost.
How best to save hay wastage?
Large bale feeders vary in quality and design, steel livestock cattle bale feeders are risky to be used for horses, they aren’t designed for animals like horses that kick, where they may catch their legs on the metal sides and bars, liable to cause severe damage to themselves. Plastic round bale feeders and poly bale feeders are safer options for feeding horses and ponies. The Durapoly plastic hay feeder has wider gaps and higher bars, designed especially for safety and long-lasting use.
Taking a look at savings, a round bale costing appx. £50.00 including transport, 40 horses would consume about 15 of these bales over the winter, take a loss of 10-15% lost forage means £75.00 to £150.00 of natural waste, before any possible health implications which could be avoided.
Meanwhile back in the stable……
Slow Feeding hay has been proven a big benefit to horse health by slowing the pace at wcross-contamination, reducing the risk of colic, gastric ulcers, obesity and laminitis.
Encouraging the horse to imitate grazing behaviour and slow the pace of eating ensures there is always a protective mat of forage in the stomach which helps to prevent stomach acid splashing and potentially causing gastric ulcers.
Other benefits of slow feeding hay are a reduction in cross contamination of forage and bedding, less stable boredom and less potential to develop stable vices for the horse.
The Forager from Haygain is an excellent example of a slow feeder.