Written by Becky James BSc MSc
Different hays have slightly different aromas but they are all appealing and invite you to inhale deeply and ponder! Fresh grass? New hay? Green tea? Weetabix? Oat-meal? Hops? These are all words I’ve heard people describe the wonderful smell that is steamed hay!
Get a waft of steamed hay and you will want to eat it yourself, but what do horses think?
Simply put, they love it! We’ll hear from Haygain users later in the article, but for now let’s look at some scientific evidence behind the statement.
Three independent research trials carried out in England and the USA have found Haygain steamed hay to be the preferred forage choice of horses.
In 2012 Moore-Colyer and Payne from The Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, England investigated the palatability and ingestion behaviour of polo ponies when offered dry, soaked or Haygain-steamed hay.
Six polo ponies were offered 1kg of each of the dry, soaked and steamed hay simultaneously. The hay was placed on the floor in three different corners of a rubber matted stable. To eliminate positional preferences, the experiment was repeated three times for each horse with the position of each of the hays being rotated. Observations were recorded on the first choice of forage eaten for a consecutive five minutes.
As you can see from the results table above, they discovered that steamed hay once tasted was always the first consumed. The researchers commented that some did nibble the dry hay but quickly returned to the steamed hay until it was all consumed whereupon they chose to eat the dry hay over the soaked.
In 2013 Brown et al from Writtle College, England conducted a comparable study, this time involving haylage and which sought to determine which fodder was the preferred choice for stabled horses between dry hay, steamed hay or haylage.
Seven horses stabled at Writtle College Lordships stud were simultaneously offered 3 haynets with either dry hay, haylage or hay that had been steamed in a Haygain HG600. Intake was determined by the difference in weight of the haynets after a 1 hour feeding period. Observations were taken to record the first, second and third choices of forage.
Statistical analysis revealed steamed hay was most often the first forage to be consumed, followed by haylage, followed by dry hay and that steamed hay was consumed the most over the one hour feeding period. The researchers concluded that steamed hay was not only hygienically clean but also a palatable fodder for stabled horses.
In addition, the Kentucky Equine Research Centre in America performed a full 12 week feeding trial using three Thoroughbred geldings which included an assessment of palatability. Their findings agreed with those outlined above and recorded horses would voluntarily consume more steamed hay than dry or soaked hay when given the choice.
Results from scientific trials are important but what about everyday real life? Here’s a few comments from Haygain users about what they think their horse thinks of steamed hay!
“The hay smells wonderful and comes out feeling clean. It is very easy to work it into the morning or evening routine since steam time is so short and it only takes a few minutes to cool off. Of course the horses love the hay.” Karen Wolfshiemer, Florida
“Haygain is great for those of my horses that are fussy eaters as it smells delicious, so they go straight to it and eat it really well.” Katie Jerram, Essex
“Not only does Haygain put my mind at ease when it comes time to feeding, but the horses too are really enjoying their steamed hay!" Lauren Hough
“The Haygain has fitted into the yard routine beautifully and the horses are really enjoying the steamed hay.” Sir Mark Todd