When is this year’s hay safe to feed to your horse?

  • With the recent fine weather, horse owners across the UK have started to stock up on freshly baled hay — but when is this year’s hay safe to feed to your horse? Ask seasoned horse owners and the response typically varies from “straight away” to “after eight weeks”.

    In perfect conditions — where the hay has been baled at less than 12% moisture and is very dry — it is safe to feed straight away, but this isn’t often the case, as Tim Moxon of TM Agri Services Ltd explains: “The main reason for allowing a period of anywhere between two and eight weeks before feeding freshly made hay is to allow for a process called curing to take place.

    “This basically allows the sugars and fermentation process to settle to a safe level before feeding so as not to cause colic.

    “If the hay has been baled very dry at less than 12% moisture, this shouldn’t be necessary as it shouldn’t need to go through the fermentation process.”

    However, guaranteeing that the hay has been baled this dry is tricky and can be a risky strategy to take.

    Annabel Wells, also of TM Agri Services Ltd, advises: “Although in theory very dry hay is safe, there is always the risk that there could be damp inside the bale so I would never recommend feeding freshly baled hay straight away.

    “Some yards do feed it immediately, but in my opinion it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

    If you’re still unsure about when is this year’s hay safe to feed, ask your supplier for their recommendations, while erring on the side of caution, is the wisest course of action. If you are in any doubt, waiting longer should help minimise the risks of feeding new season hay to your horse.

    For advice specific to your horse, consult your vet or an equine nutritionist.

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