We have been producing haylage from ryegrass. Our cows are doing great on it, and it makes cutting the ryegrass a lot easier. We have a couple of horses, and we want to know if we can safely feed this haylage to them as well.
DR. MCMILLAN'S ANSWER:
This is becoming a lot more popular in our area, and it really seems to make sense on a lot of levels. Ryegrass, or any good-quality haylage, is excellent cattle feed. But horses are not cattle, and I have concerns.
Interestingly, the practice of feeding horses haylage appears to be very common in some countries -- Great Britain, for one. But it has never really caught on here, so I asked a couple of equine experts their thoughts. Like me, they also had concerns.
One was worried that haylage contains more gases, or quickly releases gas once consumed. Since horses cannot belch off excess gas, this could create serious problems quickly. He also noted haylage produced from small grains past the boot stage could lead to issues with grain overload. In horses, that means bloating, diarrhea and laminitis. He suggested any haylage for horses be well aerated and dry.
Another equine expert expressed concerns to me about potential mold in haylage. Bale wraps are prone to get torn, and significant mold can develop in these open areas. Horses do not do well with molds in their feed.
If some of our readers have successfully fed haylage to their horses, we would love to hear from you.
Please contact your veterinarian with questions pertaining to the health of your herd or other animals. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.
Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask the Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email email@example.com.
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