Hay or haylage – which is the best forage for your horse?

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Choosing between hay and haylage is a decision often made simply on cost, but with so many products on the market these days, how can you be sure you’re making the right choice?

Here are some factors that may help you decide:

Hay

Hay is normally the cheapest type of forage. Usually locally-produced, quality and hygiene is dependant on the type of grass harvested and its dry matter at the time of baling, as well as the weather conditions during harvesting.

A dust-free forage is more important than nutritional value, as hay with a low nutritional content can be supplemented with either a bagged forage and/or concentrates. It should have a clean, sweet smell and a greenish colour. Hay shouldn’t be fed if it’s musty or dark.

Pros

  • cheap

  • easy to handle

Cons

  • can be dusty/contain mould spores

  • can have a high sugar content

  • must be stored undercover

Haylage

After cutting, wilting and baling, haylage is wrapped to exclude air. The quality, nutritional content, dry matter and acidity may all be variable.

As with any bagged forage, if it’s allowed to stand for too long, or if the bales are punctured, the haylage may become contaminated.

Pros

  • more palatable than hay

  • easier to digest

  • less dusty

  • may have nutritional analysis, depending on the source

Cons

  • Can go off if left open for too long

  • can be expensive

  • may contain additives

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Contrary to popular belief, haylage is normally lower in sugar than hay, and contains more protein.

  • Soaking or steaming your hay can help to reduce sugar levels.

TOP TIP

Make sure you store your hay/haylage carefully to get the most from your money.

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