Why is Timothy Hay so good for horses?
Ruth Bishop, Equine Consultant to Newhay – A quality hay forage is a vital part of any horse’s diet. That’s because unlike other large animals horses have a relatively small stomach and small intestine, compared to a bigger, large intestine, which is designed to digest fibre.
There are many types of forage available for horses. Grass, hay and haylage are the most common, but they can vary widely in terms of energy, protein and sugar content, levels of moisture as well as hygiene.
What are the qualities of Timothy Hay?
By looking at a hay product and smelling it for freshness, it is possible to check some of these attributes. However, all Newhay’s products are laboratory tested and scientific analysis is the only definitive way to confirm the nutritional content and hygiene of hay.
High fibre, low sugar
Timothy Hay from Newhay is a high fibre, low energy and low sugar hay that can be chewed slowly and enjoyed by all classes of horse or small herbivore. Timothy hay is in direct contrast to haylage which, although dust-free, can be nutritionally much richer than hay and in some cases eaten too fast.
Low mould & spores
Mould and spores can develop from hay that lies cut in a field for a long period of time, particularly if it rains during harvest. It can also form in bales that are too wet, or have not been stored with enough space, to allow them to ‘breathe’ in the stack. In these cases, heating can occur within the bale, which creates the perfect conditions for disease-causing organisms such as Aspergillus fumigatus. Hay at Newhay is dried within 48 hours to minimise field-borne moulds. Each bale is then moisture-probed several times before entering storage to ensure that there is no chance of heating occurring once in the store.
Dust is composed of fragments of leaf matter, particles of feed and bedding, mould spores and bacteria. High levels of dust can irritate and challenge the delicate respiratory tract of horses. At Newhay we harvest and dry our hay before putting it through a specially-designed dust-extraction process before packing.
Feeding horses with laminitis
Choosing the right feed for a horse or pony that has or is prone to laminitis can be very difficult.
Nutritionists recommend a non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) diet. This means a diet where the starch, sugar and fructan content is no more than 10-12% of the total feed.
Accredited compound feeds and chopped fibres are also available for laminitis prone animals but it can be hard to tell whether this is suitable or not.
In terms of forage, which should make up the bulk of a horse’s diet, Timothy Hay is universally acknowledged by experts to be the most suitable choice for horses prone to laminitis. This is because it is low in both sugar and fructan.
Alternatives to Timothy Hay include haylage and meadow hay. But haylage can contain high levels of sugar (c.15%) in a bale and meadow hay can vary nutritionally depending on the date and time of cutting.