Effect of hay steaming on forage nutritive values and dry matter intake by horses

J. E. Earing, Marcia Hathaway, Craig C Sheaffer, Brian Hetchler, L. D. Jacobson, J. C. Paulson, Krishona L Martinson

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Management strategies for horses with respiratory disease include soaking hay before feeding. Hay steaming is an alternative to this practice; however, little is known about its impact on forage nutritive values or intake. The objective was to determine the effect of steaming on forage nutritive value and intake by horses. Two alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)-orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) mixed hays were evaluated: a low moldy (NM) and moderately moldy (MM) hay. Six mature horses were used in a 10 d crossover design. Three horses were assigned to each hay type and treatments were switched on d 6. Each day, one bale of each hay was sampled (pre- and poststeaming) and steamed for 90 min using a commercial hay steamer. Two flakes of steamed or unsteamed NM or MM hay were weighed and offered simultaneously to each horse in individual hay nets. Horses were allowed access to hay for 2 h, orts were collected, and 2 h DMI was calculated. Six additional bales of NM and MM were used to evaluate the effect of steaming on total suspended particulate (TSP). Flakes of unsteamed or steamed hay were agitated in an electric cement mixer, and TSP were recorded every min for 30 min using a tapered element oscillating microbalance sampler. Paired t tests and PROC MIXED of SAS (SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC) were used to compare steamed and unsteamed hay nutritive values, mold concentration, TSP, and 2 h DMI. Steaming increased hay moisture and therefore reduced DM to 77 and 81% for NM and MM, respectively (P < 0.001). In NM and MM hay, steaming reduced P content by 16 and 17%, respectively (P ≤ 0.007). Steaming reduced water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) and ethanol-soluble carbohydrates (ESC) by 13% (P = 0.001) and 27% (P = 0.003), respectively, for MM but had no effect on NM (P > 0.05). Steaming reduced mold concentrations in both hays by ≥91% (P < 0.001). Total suspended particulate of MM hay was reduced by 55% (P = 0.043), but TSP in NM hay was not affected by steaming (P = 0.445). Dry matter intake of NM was increased by steaming; horses ingested 0.64 kg of unsteamed and 2.02 kg of steamed hay (P < 0.001). Dry matter intake of MM was not affected by steaming (P > 0.05). For NM hay, steaming decreased P and mold concentrations and increased DMI of the hay but had no effect on TSP. In MM hay, steaming reduced P, WSC, ESC, mold concentrations, and TSP but did not affect DMI. Steaming represents a strategy for reducing TSP and mold concentrations and increasing DMI in some hays but can result in leaching of essential nutrients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5813-5820
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Dry matter intake
  • Forage nutritive value
  • Hay steaming
  • Horse
  • Mold concentration
  • Total suspended particulate


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