1. Should I soak or steam hay?
Soaking hay is a tried and tested method to reduce the impact of dust in forage. It is especially useful for horses suffering from respiratory issues such as allergies. However, soaking hay can lower the nutritional qualities of the hay as the water-soluble nutrients contained in the dried grass are washed away. Steaming hay helps retain the goodness of minerals, vitamins and nutrients that are often lost when soaking hay.
Good to know:
Many variables can impact the nutritional value of hay: the time of year it was harvested, the weather, the types of grasses and how old the hay is.
In addition, when the hay is steamed, most bacterial and fungal spores are killed off, which can be helpful to horses suffering from allergies or respiratory issues. We would always recommend that you seek veterinary advice if you suspect that your horse has allergies. Steaming will contribute to keeping your horse's airways healthy, but may not solve all the issues unless you have identified the responsible allergens, for example, a certain type of grass.
2. What are the benefits of steaming hay?
Respiratory Health: Dust contained in the hay can affect the horse’s respiratory health. Steaming and soaking are a good way of reducing airborne particles present in forage. One of the main advantages of steaming over soaking is that not only it dampens the hay, preventing the particles from becoming airborne, but it can kill over 90% of harmful spores and bacteria.
Digestibility and Palatability: Steaming hay can support your horses’ appetite and contribute toward keeping them in good condition all year round. Older or recovering horses can also have difficulty chewing and swallowing dry forage, so moist and soft steamed hay can help keep them eating sufficiently. Finally, as mentioned above, steaming is a good way to retain the nutrients in the hay rather than washing them away, hence contributing to their health and well-being.
Hydration: Fresh grass contains up the 85% water. That said, we can picture how feeding hay can have an impact on your horse’s hydration levels. Some horses may naturally drink more to compensate, by you may find that your horse can benefit from dampened steamed or soaked hay to keep them healthy and hydrated.
Practicality: Hauling wet and heavy hay nets across the yard can be messy and hard work, especially during the colder months. Turning to haylage to ensure a low dust content and a higher nutritional value can be expensive.
3. What to consider when buying a hay steamer
Timing – The steaming process usually takes around one hour. It can be useful to make sure that the steamer you’re choosing can be fitted with a timer plug to ensure that you’ve got freshly steamed hay in when you need it. This is also important if you want to be able to closely manage the running costs of your steamer.
Portable – Steamers can be cumbersome and heavy, having a built-in handle and wheels can make it more practical, especially if you and your horse are often on the move.
High-Temperature Treatment – Choosing a model that evenly heats up to over 90°C ensures that most harmful bacteria and mold spores will be killed off.
Temperature Gauge – A built-in temperature gauge can make it easy to check that the hay steamer is up to temperature and ready to use.
Easy Cleaning – Consider a model that you can easily clean and descale to ensure its longevity and efficiency.
Guest Blog from Simply Steam