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Spinal Research



Soaking Hay


Posted by Annabelleh on September 18, 2001
Just how long should you soak hay for?  I seem to remember some saying 24hours - others less.
Currently I am putting the hay in to soak am for pm use.  Is there actually any 'scientific' evidence of the time-factor involved.

If the hay was of good quality I wouldn't normally bother soaking as none of mine have any respiratory problems (thank the Lord) but this year's crop is so awful I feel I have to.
There also seems to be a lot of prickles in the hay - they hurt ME when I pick it up - does this do the horse any harm? Also, I've quite often found big plant-like elements in the hay - I am worried it might be Ragwort - how would I be able to tell for sure? I read on Janet's very useful "poisonous plants" section that Ragwort is still dangerous even when dead (such as in the hay). I try to pull as much of it out as possible but they have a lot of hay and it's sending me a bit potty!!

Posted by Cob Nut
I don't want to worry you, Annabelle, but ragwort is actually far MORE dangerous when it is in the hay, because it loses much of its bitter taste, so the horses are more likely to eat it. (We took over field which was overrun with ragwort a couple of years ago, and when we THOUGHT we'd uprooted every last plant we let the horses in. They grazed the grass, and carefully left the remaining ragwort plants - of which there were many - standing!)

Interestingly, there was a thread in another place on ragwort, where somebody (can't remember who) said that their horses had carefully left the ragwort in their hay as well, so it obviously retains some of its bitterness. But I'd counsel caution all the same: if in any doubt about anything in the hay, remove it or don't feed at all.

Posted by Katanna

I seem to recall that hay should not be soaked for more than an hour as after this time the hay starts to lose its nutritional value. I think the suggested time is 10 minutes?!? My horse has his hay soaked but I just run a hose after it for a few minutes.

Posted by Sunflower
Between 20mins and 1 hour.  Less than 20 mins and the hay spores aren't soaked enough to stop them causing a problem, more than an hour and the hay starts to lose nutritional value.

Posted by Fizzbw
Chances are that the tall plants are just docks or thistles - far from ideal but not dangerous. However you REALLY need to confirm that it isn't ragwort, collect samples of the plants and examine them closely - use a good plant book and you should be able to ascertain whether or not it is Ragwort. If still in doubt show someone who does know!

Soaking, again 20 mins to 1 hour, and do be careful where you tip the effluent, it is a pollutant.

Posted by Alison
30 mins sticks the spores to the stalks so that they cannot be inhaled by the horse.

1 -2 hours of soaking swells the spores so that they cannot be inhaled by the horse.

24 hours is certainly too long to soak hay for as the nutritonal value is greatly reduced.

Posted by LizCobby
We find half an hour is fine.
That also means that there is time to soak and to hang the net up to drain before feedtime so avoiding soaked bedding.
If you have a kettle available, another good way is to put haynet in a bin and pour on a kettle of boiling water.
The steam swells up the fungal spores even quicker, and less waste water to dispose off

Posted by babyblueeyesuk
If you are soaking the hay because it is of poor quality then you'd really be better to not feed that hay. I don't really believe that soaking hay can change it from being 'bad to being 'good'.

Assuming that it is not hay you cut yourself, so wont be losing money that way, and that you have not bought loads, as obviously you would have checked it, seen that it was of poor quality and not bought it, I would get some different hay.

If there is no good quality hay available in your area, as I know is the case in many areas, try horsehage, haylage, etc.

It seems that the only way to get good quality hay this year is to pay a fortune for it. you say your horses do not currently have respiratory problems. Surely feeding this hay will damage their respiration?

It's worth paying for it to ensure your horse is happy and healthy!

You can also change the balance between forage and concentrates maybe. Up the hard feed, increase the exercise and cut down on the hay and time stabled.

Posted by Annabelleh
I agree with your comments wholeheartedly and I've come to the conclusion that not only am I going to feed them Haylage but I'm also going to change to shavings. This is due to the fact that we are somewhat held to ransom by our livery yard to buy their hay and straw which is really bad quality. This situation is really another topic in itself and has me somewhat irate as you can imagine.
I actually DID find a definite sprig of ragwort last night and spent ages sifting through all their hay last night (I have 3 horses) as I was so paranoid.
They will have haylage from tonight onwards and shavings from the weekend.

Total Posts: 105 | Joined July 2001 | Posted on: 1:27 pm on Sep. 19, 2001 | IP
Posted by Roo

When you say that hay needs soaking for 1/2 an hour does this mean it needs to be dunked underwater for this period or is it ok to dunk it for 10 mins and leave it to drain for 20 mins (as I do currently) as I figured that this would give the spores time to expand even though it wasn't submerged ?


If someone is selling hay with ragwort in it then it is definitely NOT OF MERCHANTABLE QUALITY or FIT FOR PURPOSE and can be returned - and SHOULD be returned. This stuff kills. Why is the livery yard selling it - have you told ALL the other liveries that the hay is dangerous? - as long as you're 100% sure it IS ragwort



Posted by Von

I soak my hay for 20-30 mins, soaked underwater for that length of time. My gelding has COPD & this alongside shavings for bedding keeps it under control.

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