RAU researchers find that steamed hay might help horses at risk of respiratory or dental disease

Research undertaken by Royal Agricultural University academics from the School of Equine Management and Science, features in the latest edition of Equine Health Care publication, The Horse.

Based on an academic paper published at the end of 2020, the feature suggests that steamed hay might help horses at risk of respiratory or dental disease, by retaining hay’s nutritional content and keeping a good ‘haybiome’ bacteria balance. 

Senior lecturer in Equine Management and Science, Simon Daniels says, “Our findings show that steaming is the most effective way to reduce both aeroallergens and bacteria from hay,

“High-temperature steaming dry hay does not alter the bacterial diversity, making it more like the dry forage horses traditionally ingest, and it does not alter the nutrient content. However, it does reduce potential pathogens (disease-causing organisms), making it the most beneficial pre-treatment of hay for horses.”

“When looking to reduce the respirable particles in hay for horses with asthma, both soaking and steaming provide a way to reduce those aeroallergens,” added Simon.

“The problem with soaking hay is you can lose nutrients and the water you are left with is a biohazard to dispose of.”

Simon and his fellow researchers ran genetic sequencing on samples of four kinds of meadow and ryegrass hay after it had gone through either 12 hours of soaking in water or one hour in a commercial steamer that heated the hay to at least 95°C (203 F) for 10 minutes. They sequenced samples of the same hay left dry for the same period and compared results.

Read the full feature here