Should I soak or steam hay for horses?

Caring for your horse's digestive and respiratory systems by applying extra processes to forage feeding might seem to be a challenge, here's our thoughts on soaking, steam and dry forage.

You could be thinking: "should I soak or steam hay for my horses?"

This is your helpful guide about soaking or steaming hay - helping you care for your horse's digestive and respiratory systems.

Soaking Hay:

  • dampens around 90% of respirable dust particles

  • causes a 150% increase in bacterial content

  • reduces hygiene quality and palatability

  • poaches valuable nutrients from hay

  • the leftover liquid is considered 9 times more pollutive than raw sewage.

  • soaking uses around 60-100 litres of water

  • this method is messy and time-consuming

Steaming Hay:

  • reduces respirable particles by 98%

  • drastically reduces bacteria and mould content

  • seriously improves hygiene quality

  • improves palatability and horses love it!

  • steaming is clean, easy and produces no effluent

  • the hay still retains nutrients it’s designed to give to horses

  • steaming should only use around 4 litres of water

Is dry hay better than soaked hay?

Most of us probably feed dry hay to our horses and that’s still fine. Even though the best quality hay still contains respirable particles of dust, mould, bacteria and fungi, it’s better than soaking and second-best to steaming.

You might be thinking - can I make my own steamer?

Great idea! Well, at first anyway, because a homemade steamer will only be able to steam from the outside-in.  Furthermore, if the hay is steamed in a plastic dust bin most of the heat will be lost through the thin non-insulated walls.  This is especially the case during wintertime when the outside temperature is a lot lower than inside the homemade steamer.

Secondly.  If the steam does not fully penetrate the hay and keep a constant 100C temperature for 10 minutes, the hay will incubate bacteria, mould and fungi.

Heat (below 100C) and moisture from the steam become perfect breeding grounds for organisms like this and therefore they grow and multiply extremely fast.  Feeding the hay to the horse is bound to cause respiratory and digestive issues which can be avoided.

So, if steaming is better than soaking hay, how do I do it?

The answer is Haygain.  Over the years and with significant scientific research and backup, Haygain has developed a patented and scientifically proven way to steam hay.

  • A manifold spike system designed to inject steam into the hay

  • In addition to a fully insulated hay chest and a purpose-built steamer

  • The combination is capable of steaming hay for 60 minutes at 100C.

All figures mentioned in this guide are based on professional research done by Haygain and partners.

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