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As a horse owner you will take great care when choosing the right feed for your horses. Taking into account nutritional content, palatability and of course, cost.


As non-ruminant herbivores, horses are adapted to eating plant fibre or preserved forages such as hay, haylage or silage.


What is the difference?

The main difference between hay and haylage is the way the grass has been conserved.

Hay is cut when the grass is mature and then left to dry in the field before being baled and stored.

Whereas haylage tends to be cut earlier in the season and left to wilt for a shorter period of time before being baled and then wrapped in several layers of plastic.

Another key difference is that hay relies on the removal of moisture whereas haylage relies on the exclusion of oxygen, which therefore prevents the growth of mould. Making haylage usually between 70-80% dry matter.

It’s good to know that haylage when 80% dry matter will often last just over a week once opened.


How Much to Feed

The other point to consider is the amount of feed required. To provide the same amount of dry matter you would need to feed more haylage by weight. This is due to the greater amount of moisture in haylage.

Equimed have a helpful calculator to work out how much feed you need for your horse.


Which is Better?

The conservation methods used for haylage and hay have very little to do with which is the better feed. Ultimately it comes down to the grass type and age of maturity when harvested.

When comparing the two methods on the same grass type the nutrient levels don’t really vary.

One main benefit of haylage though is it’s better for respiratory health. This is because hay is a larger source of respiratory particles which can be potentially harmful to your horse.


How to spot Good vs Bad Hay or Haylage:


Should be golden in colour and sweet in smell.

If it’s bad it will be a faded yellow or even brown. Bad hay will smell musty or acrid and may have thistles or weeds.



Good haylage will be slightly moist with a sweet smell. They will appear leafy and golden.

However, bad haylage will have an excessive amount of moisture. Dampness is usually an indicator of a hole in the wrapping which means it’s been exposed to oxygen and is at risk of mould. Also be aware of large white or black patches in the haylage.


For more help and advice on hay and haylage for your horses, drop us a message today.

Good To Know: All our haylage is made from rye grass mixtures grown specifically for horses and samples are taken and tested for dry matter and nutrients.