BGS Haylage Meeting Report

BGS Haylage Meeting Report

Monday, March 21, 2011

Horses show a clear preference when given a free choice of forages to eat, most often choosing silage over hay or haylage. Delegates at the BGS Making Haylage for Horses Workshop (sponsored by Ecosyl, Oliver Seeds and SilAC) heard how horses were given the option of a 35% dry matter silage, two haylages at 50% and 70% DM, and hay. They were given access to these for two hours a day.

"Their first choice was never hay," said haylage researcher Dr Cecilia Mueller, of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. "And, silage was never left and was most often the first choice, with the next choice the highest dry matter haylage."

The research found no significant differences in the effects on horse digestion from the different forages. A further study looked at chop length, which is often said to improve fermentation in silage, to see if it was beneficial in haylage at 55% DM, made in round bales, in terms of horse behaviour or nutrition.

"We looked at horse eating times and digestive behaviour and found no difference in any variable - which was surprising. Even bale density was similar and there was a very small difference in bacteriology."

However, it appears that a later cut, more mature grass plant at harvest, could be better for horse behaviour, explained Dr Mueller. "Horses have a low nutrient requirement, but need to spend a good amount of time eating (16 hours/day) for their welfare. A delay in harvest results in a stemmy feed that may take longer to ingest. Yet cutting grass later could affect its hygienic quality, with yeasts and moulds, and crop stability."

Three cuts were taken from the same field, in June, July and August to compare the differences. Dr Mueller concluded that the later-cut crop saw a desirable decrease in energy level, so more could be fed. And with the feed eaten more slowly/kg of DM, total eating time was increased by 40 minutes between a June and August cut. This was beneficial to horse welfare. But while aerobic stability varies little, she warned that there was an increased risk of poor hygienic quality in bales from the later cut grass.

Sponsors of the event have produced these haylage factsheets: 

Haylage versus Hay by Ecosyl 

Making Haylage for Horses by Ecosyl

Haylage for Horses by SiLAC 

Producing Haylage for Horses by SiLAC



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