Hay or Haylage? Which is best for my horse?

“Do you want your horse on hay or haylage?”

….asks the livery yard owner. So as a horse owner what’s your choice? Whichever you decide to go for, it is of course a personal choice but it will be influenced by a number of factors. You must consider what is actually best for your horse of course. However budget, storage and local availability will also play a part. Are you bringing it in to the yard? Is it included in your livery? Is it stored onsite already? Do you really know why you would feed one over the other? Do you even know the differences between the two?

Many horse owners out there are not entirely aware of the delicate differences between hay and haylage and this can lead to problems and repercussions with their horse that they may find tricky to deal with. Obviously many livery yard owners are on hand to provide help and advice for their clients when it comes to feeding. However,for those that need a bit of help, our Selwood Equine blog today takes a look at the differences between the two and why you may choose one over the other for your horse.


Look for good quality meadow hay. Ideally it will have been cut, turned and dried. Will not be dusty or mouldy either. If it satisfies the aforementioned, then it is a great good value forage element to your horses diet. Hay is completely dried, turned and open baled.

Pros/Cons of Hay

Depending on when it was cut, it will have varying nutritional value. Early cut hay tends to have higher feed values in comparison to late cut hay. On balance though, hay has a lower feed value than haylage. This is down to the drying process. A degree of water soluble carbohydrates, proteins and minerals are lost during drying. Many people feed hay ‘ad-lib’ due to its low energy value and reasonable cost. There is less concern for weight gain or ‘heating up’ in the horse with hay. Another benefit is that hay is also able to be stored for long periods of time – if stored correctly in a dry environment.

However as a result of the drying process some dust can be retained alongside mould spores. For horses with respiratory issues this is of course a problem. Cost wise hay is cheaper than haylage. It also does provide your horse with the large of amount of fibre that his digestive system requires. Hay also contains high levels of vitamins but these levels do reduce over time. This is worth bearing in mind if you are storing large quantities.


Again good quality haylage is paramount. Haylage is semi dried and compression baled within around 48 hours of being cut. Therefore it has a higher moisture content than hay. Baling in this manner means that oxygen cannot reach it and this creates the ideal anaerobic conditions for fermentation of the haylage to take place.

Pros/Cons of Haylage

Haylage provides a higher feed value to the horse as fibre, energy and proteins are retained due the compression wrapping preserving moisture content. Bear in mind though because of the higher moisture content you will need to feed more haylage than hay to provide the same amount of fibre to your horse! Some fussy eaters prefer haylage as it is more palatable and has a pleasant sweet smell. It is also more easily digested due to the young grasses used in its production.

As haylage has a higher energy level than hay many competition horses are fed on it to balance out with their concentrate feeds. It can also be ideal for horses with respiratory problems, due to its high moisture content and that there are very few mould spores in it. However, haylage has a short shelf life and must be used once open within a few days. It isn’t advisable for horses who are prone to weight gain or those who suffer from laminitis. Some horses can find haylage too rich for their digestive tract and it can upset them. Some people have found though that mixing hay and haylage to balance in this situation may be the answer!

Whichever you decide to go with make sure you take into account each horse as an individual; their age, breed, type, size, work load and routine.

Today’s Blog Feature Pic
Rider Jonelle Price wears her Tattini Kenzia Platinum breeches in our picture. These great breeches are ideal for competitive riding and feature silicon gripping on the knee area to provide extra security in the saddle. 

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