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Spinal Research



Hay, haylage, silage ?


What are the differences between the three and what price do you pay for each ? I ask as I am considering changing from hay to something more quality assured as hay can vary so much between bales never mind deliveries !

Also I have seen on the Dengie site a hay replacer ? What is this and does anyone use it.

Hay is grass that is cut and left to dry for at least three days to a high dry matter content (i.e. it isn't very wet!). It is then baled (using twine only) and stored - technically you should leave it for 6 months before feeding it to horses - although I have used some before this time when desperate.

Silage is again grass but it is cut and either baled or put in a silage clamp (like a big bunker) immediately, or it is left to wilt a little (around 12 hours). Wilting is done so that there is less silage effluent (liquid stuff that is very polluting and corrosive) to come out of the stored silage. Once it is baled or clamped it has to be sealed from oxygen by wrapping in plastic - if continuous oxygen is present it degrades - gets hot - and goes very nasty and smelly due to the effect of nasty bacteria. If it is sealed then nice anaerobic bacteria use sugar from the grass and pickle it by producing lots of acid. Silage can be fed to horses but you have to know what you are doing and you have to be able to recognise the smell and appearance of silage that has gone off / or contains botulism.

Haylage is halfway between - i.e. it is cut and dried a bit before baling with plastic wrapping to pickle. As the dry matter content is higher before wrapping there is less likely to be any 'bad' bugs in it and it is safer.
Both silage and haylage need to be used up within a few days of opening the plastic wrapping - as they do go off. Hay just gets dustier!
Hay replacers tend to be either chaff / chaff and alfalfa either loose or in compressed blocks. I once used a nugget type thing but because it had sharp edges by horse blistered her tongue and had to be off work for a while - not very amused!
I feed hay - because it is grown on the farm where I keep my horses and is generally ok. I don't have to soak it which is lucky but I do use Horsehage for anything that coughs.

How long should you leave haylage for after it has been cut?

At least a couple of months to let the fermentation take place

What is Horsehage - is that a form of haylage commercialised ?
Horsehage is just a brand name that everyone says when they mean haylage - just like people call vacuum cleaners Hoovers when they might actually be another brand.

What kind of quantities do you feed of horsehage - bale wise (I have seen it in my feed shop in bags a bit smaller than the alfa A bags) I know it is about 5 a bag but if I need similar quantities to hay then I need to win the lottery if I want to feed it ! 

I used to feed haylage and would generally go by half the amount I would have fed in hay. (think that was it anyway - so long ago!)
God, I'm trying to remember now. I think it was the same sort of weight but because the haylage is heavier it looked about half. Or was it half the weight??...

I used to up the alfa or chaff ration in feeds though.

Bear in mind that if you don't use the whole bag in a few days it goes off and you have to throw the rest away.

Also, if a bag gets punctured you must either use it straight away (if a new puncture) or throw it away (if you don't know when it happened).

I used to get one that wasn't Horsehage but the same stuff - similar size bag for about 4 when the Horsehage round here was about 6-7.

I had always been told not to feed haylage to laminitics.  Is this true?  If so, why?

I only ask as I have a mare who has had laminitis in the past and a Welshie who although hasn't had it yet (and hopefully never will) but is the type of pony that will be prone to it.

Is hay or haylage better for weight gain or is it all down to amounts?  My other horse,  a TB, appears to lose weight a the drop of a hat.

I have been told haylage is good for weight gain as I have a TB who is exactly the same. This is why I was asking particularly about the difference between horsehage and haylage.

Also how long would a bale last (I know it doesn't keep) for a TB in at night ? Would I end up wasting it or would I need a bale a day ? He is currently on ad lib hay.

As to the quantities you should reduce the amount fed by one third - yes it is slightly wetter but it is normally more energy giving which is why you shouldn't feed it to laminitics. This reduction in amount fed can cause problems if the horse does not have as much to occupy it but that is why they bought out the nets with small holes - although some greedy horses don't take any notice. If you keep the same amount of haylage as hay in each feed just remember to knock off the concentrates!!!

You can get three sizes of haylage bales - one is the mini size (same as Horsehage) and is between 4 - 6 depending on the shop, you can get the midisize which is double the mini size and a bit more difficult to handle (you have to roll then as they are too heavy to pick up) and are normally about double the price but better for you if you have a couple of horses; and the large size that cost about 20. I would advise the larger size if you have the number of horses and the handling capacity (or large round ones) but make sure that the person / farmer / company who make them know that they are for horse consumption and have not added any additives that may affect horses. Additives are added (either acid / bacteria or special chemicals) to ensure a correct fermentation but these have not been tested on horses and we all know what a sensitive lot they are!

A few years back I was feeding big bale haylage and found that, once opened, it was fine for about 3 days if kept under cover but completely unwrapped. (it does dry a little but that's not a problem.) If you leave part of the bag around it, it sweats and can develop mould.

Quantity wise, I fed the same by weight as I would hay - but reduced the concentrates as it is higher in feed value.  If you feed less, you'll find horses lacking 'gut fill' and they start on the bedding!


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