When is this year’s hay safe to feed to your horse?

With the recent fine weather, horse owners have started to stock up on this year’s freshly baled hay — but when is it safe to feed it?

Ask seasoned horse owners and the response varies from “straight away” to “after eight weeks”.

In perfect conditions — where the hay has been baled at less than 12% moisture and is very dry — it is safe to feed straight away, but this isn’t often the case. The main reason for allowing a period of anywhere between two and eight weeks before feeding freshly made hay is to allow for a process called curing to take place.

This basically allows the sugars and fermentation process to settle to a safe level before feeding so as not to cause colic. If the hay has been baled very dry at less than 12% moisture, this shouldn’t be necessary as it shouldn’t need to go through the fermentation process.

However, guaranteeing that the hay has been baled this dry is tricky and can be a risky strategy to take.

Annabel advises: “Although in theory very dry hay is safe, there is always the risk that there could be damp inside the bale so I would never recommend feeding freshly baled hay straight away.

Asking your supplier for their recommendations, erring on the side of caution and waiting longer if in doubt should minimise the risks of feeding new season hay to your horse.

For advice specific to your horse, consult your vet or an equine nutritionist.