Horse Haylage

What is haylage?

  • It is a replacement for hay.
  • Grasses grown and cut in the same way as for hay but left to dry for less time (approximately 30-40% moisture)
  • Bales are wrapped straight after baling and compress to approximately two thirds of the original size.
  • Natural fermentation preserves the grass as haylage (about 90% feed value of grass).
  • Haylage can be thought of as highly nutritional hay and without dust and spores.
  • Horse haylage, is not the same as silage (silage is a fermented, high moisture feed and usually not suitable for horses).

Why feed haylage?

tickHaylage is a very good source of fibre
tickFibre is vital for the movement of food along the digestive system.
tickHorses are designed for browsing - eating little but often, therefore slowly chewing haylage is more desirable than a bucket of hard feed eaten in a couple of minutes.
tickFeeding haylage can provide as much energy and protein as a hard feed, therefore saving money and being much kinder to the digestive system
tickReplacing some or all hard feed with good quality haylage for horses could also help to reduce boredom in the stable.
tickTo avoid respiratory problems in future or aid in managing a current respiratory disease.
tickReplace the need for soaking hay - especially when water might freeze, haylage needs no soaking.

How much should I feed my horse?

According to the BHS Stage 3 guidelines, a horse in light to medium work and kept stabled for much of the time should be given 2.5% of it's body weight in food, with about 70-75% of that being forage (hay or haylage).

This would mean that a 16hd Cleveland Bay sort (approx 600Kg) would need about 11Kg of hay / haylage per day. Whereas, a 11hd Welsh pony sort (approx 300Kg) would need only about 5Kg of hay / haylage per day.

Each horse should be treated independently - the quality and amount of grazing available at various times of the year; the type and amount of exercise and breed of horse will be very significant when calculating the daily food rations.

When not to feed horse haylage.

crossIf the wrapping has been previously damaged (patching up holes is not acceptable!).
crossIf the haylage is wet - possibly a sign of secondary fermentation and so needs to be avoided.
crossIf there are white mould patches.
crossHorses and ponies that are prone to laminitis (because of the higher protein and energy content of haylage vs hay).

What else should you think about?

  • Remember that the horse's digestive system is not the same as sheep and cows. Horses are non-ruminants and have relatively small stomachs and a very sensitive digestive tract, where as sheep, cows, goats, deer and other ruminants have a large foregut, the rumen, that can cope quite well with poor quality food before it then passes into the stomach.
  • Botulism caused by the toxin of the bacterium 'clostridium botulinum' and which can be found in decaying plant and animal matter and in soil. It thrives in wet warm conditions but is now thought to be rare in UK due to improved farming methods and increasing awareness. Check the bale is not rotten, has no dead animal matter nearby (rats etc.) and free from soil.
  • Try to avoid equine respiratory problems before they occur - the symptoms can appear many years after the initial damage.
  • When feeding haylage to horses, always try to feed horses from the (clean, mud free) floor - it is more naturally beneficial for a horses respiratory and lymphatic system, teeth occlusion and for the back muscles. So, avoid haylage nets and haylage racks in stables and fields, instead use low-level haylage feeders, such as the Haybar.
  • Discard old uneaten haylage from stable or field daily.
  • Avoid storing bales of haylage where cats and dogs may scratch or climb on them or birds pecking at them.
  • Handle with care - punctured bales should be opened straight away and used within a week (colder temperatures) or within 3-4 days (warm weather)
  • Green wrapping is less likely, than black wrapping, to be pecked by birds, cooler in summer and can show up damage easier!

About haylage

What is haylage?
Why feed haylage?
How much should I feed?
When not to feed haylage
How to store haylage
Haylage making equipment


How many will fit in my car?
How many can you deliver?
What do your bales weigh?

Delivery Area