The importance of forage
Grass, hay and haylage, known as forage, make up the largest portion of fibre in a horse’s diet. Horses are known as trickle feeders; their digestive system is designed to be almost continuously taking in small amounts of food.
Horses naturally graze for up to 18 hours a day. Whilst this is not always possible for stabled horses, it is important that they have access to an adequate supply of forage to keep the digestive and metabolic systems healthy. They need to eat a minimum of 1.5% of their bodyweight in forage every day to maintain a healthy condition.
Why do horses need to eat forage?
When eating forage horses chew a lot more than when eating concentrate feeds. Whilst chewing they produce saliva which contains a natural stomach acid buffer, bicarbonate, which helps to neutralise the acids in the stomach. Too much acid in the stomach predisposes horses to gastric ulcers as the acid destroys the stomach lining. Competition horses are generally at a much higher risk of developing ulcers than companions and hacks, so it is therefore very important that owners do all they can to reduce the risk of their horse developing this issue.
As forage is digested it is passed through the short intestine to the long intestine where fermentation breaks down the fibre. This produces fatty acids that the horse can utilise for energy. A by-product of this process is heat, so it is especially important to ensure horses have enough forage during cold weather to keep warm.
Why does steaming hay help?
Forage can be negatively affected by the weather and storage conditions. At lower moisture levels forage is exposed to plant respiration and microorganisms whilst at higher moisture levels mould is more likely to grow. Even good quality forage contains high levels of respirable particles that can cause airway inflammation.
As well as making a horse more susceptible to colic, forage that has been contaminated with bacteria and mould can have a negative effect on a horse’s respiratory health. Respiratory disorders and airway inflammation can cause poor performance.
High temperature steaming can kill up to 99% of mould and bacteria and reduce respirable dust by 98%. Unlike the traditional method of soaking hay, where nutrients are lost, steamed hay retains its mineral and protein content and is also highly palatable for horses.
Haygain are offering a free starter kit worth £89.99 with every steamer purchase! Ensure your horses forage is of premium quality with the Haygain patented steaming technology. This is a limited offer, so don’t delay and buy today!