Horses given a choice of silage, high or low quality haylage and hay, all made from the same grass crop in a trial in Sweden strongly favoured the silage.

Dr Cecilia Müller from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, told an audience of farmers and horse owners at an event run by The British Grassland Society in Shropshire last week, what happened when horses were offered equal amounts of each conserved forage for two hours a day over five days.

Clear winner
Silage was the clear winner and the horses ate every last bit at every visit. Some of them smelled the hay and haylage at the start to check what was on offer, but they soon moved over to the bucket with the silage in it. They never ate all the haylage or hay.

Table: Time spent eating and amount eaten in preference test

 

Hay

Low quality haylage

High quality haylage

Silage

Time spent eating minutes/day

 6.8

 10.5

20.9

 28.4

Amount eaten kg/DM/day

0.23

 0.34

 0.62

 0.89

From the third day the horses knew that the silage was the best and did not bother scanning the other buckets!

“Forage is an essential element of any horse’s diet – as they have a low nutrient requirement but need to eat for a large proportion of the day. Their digestive systems are designed to process the fibre in forage and will not work properly without it.

“Often the choice of forage fed may be down to practical storing, handling or feeding issues – but the results of this trial suggest it may be good to offer silage to picky feeders but definitely not to greedy mares!”

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