Why should you steam your hay?

Using Haygain hay steamers has been repeatedly scientifically proven to eliminate harmful mould and fungal spores, bacteria and dust mites.  At the core of each Haygain hay steamer is the unique distribution manifold system which delivers the steam evenly into and throughout the hay, ensuring total steam absorption.

Benefits of hay steaming

Steaming both hay and haylage in a Haygain steamer is a scientific, popular method of reducing respirable particles, bacteria and mould in forage by up to 99%. The result is a clean, sweet-smelling and highly palatable forage free from potential allergens which your horse will love. Steamed forage retains its digestibility, minerals, protein and fibre. Sugar content (water soluble carbohydrate - WSC) is slightly reduced by steaming, but this decrease is lower than when soaked, meaning steamed hay retains a higher proportion of its nutritional value than soaked hay. To reduce the sugar content of forage (WSC) in an obese horse or one prone to laminitis, research has shown that the most effective way is to soak for 9 hours and then steam in a Haygain. This reduces the sugar content AND produces hygienically clean forage. Two scientific studies along with countless customer testimonials demonstrate just how delicious steamed hay is to horses. Steamed hay encourages fussy eaters to eat health-enhancing forage, a fact endorsed by many vets who choose to feed steamed hay in veterinary hospitals to their post-operative patients.

Being based in the south of France where dust is a real problem, I have found the Haygain steamer really invaluable. It is so easy to use, very neat and takes up very little space in the yard.   My Irish thoroughbred, who is quite sensitive to dust, really loves the delicious steamed hay and he no longer has bouts of coughing.  I am much happier too, knowing that he is getting the best quality hay, even when we travel abroad to competitions.

Verity Smith

International Paralympic dressage rider, UK

Haygain has proved to be a real asset to my yard. It's easy to use, simple and the most efficient way of guaranteeing my horses are getting nothing but the best, the highest nutritional value hay, free from contaminants. Scientifically proven and equally as appetising, it helps with respiratory issues, healthy digestion and any general hygiene concerns, consequently promoting my horses’ overall well-being and ability to perform.

Jodie Amos

International eventer, UK

Why Not Soaking?

Soaking hay in water wets airborne particles to keep down dust, but there are a number of obvious disadvantages to this method. In addition to being a physically arduous, cold, wet and messy task, soaking leaves live micro-organisms in the hay; these quickly multiply, particularly in warm, damp conditions, thereby compromising the hygienic quality of the forage. Soaking hay reduces respirable particles but leaches nutrients out of the forage and, as with partial steaming, bacteria levels increase by two to five-fold. This produces poor quality, more contaminated forage which can raise the risk of enteritis and colic. High losses of WSC, protein and minerals occur when hay is soaked for as little as 10 minutes. It is these nutrients in the waste water that produce a post-soak liquid 9 times more polluting than raw sewage which must not be disposed of in storm drains.

Why not DIY ?

Pouring hot water over hay or steaming in a wheeled waste bin does not effectively steam the hay, but in fact leaves 80% more respirable particles in the hay compared with the Haygain product. Research has established that partial steaming actually decreases the hygienic quality of hay because damp and heat stimulates bacterial growth.

White Books

You can download a PDF of the white book which gives advice on hay from the link below.

Advice on Hay

Research & Publications

  1. Summary of Research
  2. Investigation into the effect of different treatments on Hay and Haylage on forage pH levels, in relation to EGUS in the horse.
  3. This study showed that horses preferred to eat steamed hay compared with haylage and dry hay.
  4. Steaming and disinfecting straw reduces RP and microbial content and will allow the horse to benefit from the behavioural advantages of straw without compromising respiratory health.
  5. Forage in the stable – techniques for reducing the respirable challenge and microbial content in hay.
  6. Soaking hay for 9 hours followed by steaming for 50 minutes in the HG steamer was the most effective method for reducing both WSC and microbial contamination in hay.
  7. A comparison of different steaming techniques was done in this experiment which showed that steaming in a specifically designed hay steamer (HG 600) was significantly more effective at reducing microbes in hay compared with home-made steamers and soaking.
  8. This research indicates that steaming reduces the RAO-affected horse’s response to hay which coincides with a reduction in viable fungal content of hay.
  9. An increase of 64% TVC (bacteria) and 75% mould concentrations was found in haylage open and left for 4 days. Steaming haylage in the HG600 significantly reduced microbial growth, even after 4 days of being left open.
  10. Steaming increased the amount of hay eaten, but the rate of intake and amount of chewing was not affected.
  11. This study found the HAYGAIN HG600 to be the most effective treatment for improving the hygienic quality of the hay while soaking was found to vastly increase bacteria.
  12. A second and separate palatability trial further demonstrating that horses prefer to eat steamed hay compared with haylage and dry hay.
  13. This study found that given the choice steamed hay was preferred over dry and soaked hay. HAYGAIN steamed hay, once tasted was always the first to be consumed.
  14. This research used four different hays with varying degrees of quality and showing that a 50 minute steam in the HAYGAIN HG1000 was effective at reducing respirable particles in all hays, whether only slightly dusty or highly contaminated.
  15. This study showed the nutritional profile of the hay basically stays the same after a 50 minute cycle in the HAYGAIN HG1000 taking the average of 30 different hays. The only nutrient lost was WSC (sugar) which was a small but significant reduction.

Summary of Research

All research documents

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Download Research Document

Investigation into the effect of different treatments on Hay and Haylage on forage pH levels, in relation to EGUS in the horse.

BSc thesis, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK.

Dewhurst J. - 2014

Download Research Document

This study showed that horses preferred to eat steamed hay compared with haylage and dry hay.

Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science Conference, Nottingham April 2013.

Brown, E., Tracey, S and Gowers, I. - 2013

Download Research Document

Steaming and disinfecting straw reduces RP and microbial content and will allow the horse to benefit from the behavioural advantages of straw without compromising respiratory health.

BSc thesis, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK.

Murihead V. - 2014

Download Research Document

Forage in the stable – techniques for reducing the respirable challenge and microbial content in hay.

Proceedings of the Dorothy Russel Havemeyer Foundation IAD Workshop. Cabourg. France October 2014.

Moore-Colyer MJS and Taylor J - 2014

Download Research Document

Soaking hay for 9 hours followed by steaming for 50 minutes in the HG steamer was the most effective method for reducing both WSC and microbial contamination in hay.

Plos One

Moore-Colyer MJS, Lumbis K, Longland AC, Harris PA. - 2014

Download Research Document

A comparison of different steaming techniques was done in this experiment which showed that steaming in a specifically designed hay steamer (HG 600) was significantly more effective at reducing microbes in hay compared with home-made steamers and soaking.

Proceedings of the European Equine Health and Nutrition Congress. Ghent, Belgium March 2013

Taylor, J. and Moore-Colyer, M.J.S - 2013

Download Research Document

This research indicates that steaming reduces the RAO-affected horse’s response to hay which coincides with a reduction in viable fungal content of hay.

Proceedings of the Annual ACVIM Conference, 2012.

Blumerich, C.A., Buechner-Maxwell, V.A., Scrratt, W.K., Wilson, K.E., Ricco, C., Becvarova, I., Hodgson, J. and Were, S - 2012

Download Research Document

An increase of 64% TVC (bacteria) and 75% mould concentrations was found in haylage open and left for 4 days. Steaming haylage in the HG600 significantly reduced microbial growth, even after 4 days of being left open.

Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science Conference, Nottingham April 2013

Leggatt, P. and Moore-Colyer, M.J.S - 2013

Download Research Document

Steaming increased the amount of hay eaten, but the rate of intake and amount of chewing was not affected.

Equine Science Society Symposium 2012 .

J.D.Pagan, C.Whitehouse, B.M. Waldridge, A.M.Grev, S.W.Garling, O.L.Yates, S. Davis and B. James - 2012

Download Research Document

This study found the HAYGAIN HG600 to be the most effective treatment for improving the hygienic quality of the hay while soaking was found to vastly increase bacteria.

6th European Workshop for Equine Nutrition, Lisbon, Portugal, June 20-22nd.

Moore-Colyer, M.J.S and Fillery, B.G. - 2012

Download Research Document

A second and separate palatability trial further demonstrating that horses prefer to eat steamed hay compared with haylage and dry hay.

Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science Conference, Nottingham April 2013

Brown, E., Tracey, S and Gowers, I. - 2010

Download Research Document

This study found that given the choice steamed hay was preferred over dry and soaked hay. HAYGAIN steamed hay, once tasted was always the first to be consumed.

Moore-Colyer, M.J.S. and Payne, V. - 2013

Download Research Document

This research used four different hays with varying degrees of quality and showing that a 50 minute steam in the HAYGAIN HG1000 was effective at reducing respirable particles in all hays, whether only slightly dusty or highly contaminated.

5th European Workshop for Equine Nutrition, Cirencester, Sept 2010.

Stockdale, C and Moore-Colyer, M.J.S - 2010

Download Research Document

This study showed the nutritional profile of the hay basically stays the same after a 50 minute cycle in the HAYGAIN HG1000 taking the average of 30 different hays. The only nutrient lost was WSC (sugar) which was a small but significant reduction.

Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science Conference, Nottingham April 2013.

James, R. and Moore-Colyer, M.J.S. - 2013

Download Research Document