Ask the Vet

Haylage Good For Cows, But Horses?

In some cases haylage may cause bloating and other issues in horses. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Brent Warren)

QUESTION:

We are now producing haylage from ryegrass. Our cows are doing great on it, and it makes cutting ryegrass a lot easier. We also have a couple of horses we ride for pleasure. Can we feed haylage to them?

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 common in some countries -- Great Britain, for one. But, it has never really caught on here, so I asked a couple of equine experts. They also had concerns.

One was worried haylage contains more gases or quickly releases gas once consumed. Since horses can't 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 don't 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.

(SK)