07 Jul

Wrapped hay update!

 Many of you who have followed us since last Spring will know of some of the breathing issues we encountered last Spring. If you don't, search something like 'breathing' or 'asthma' on the search bar on my page and some of the previous posts should pop up.I do think we had a particularly bad year for pollen last year, but our horses with COPD/ Equine Asthma  started to really struggle, and my own boy who's never had breathing issues before (he's 13) started to have them. We had four horses have significant issues, two of which already had equine asthma diagnosed, my own boy who had never had issues before and my youngster started coughing on and off. Our hay had been a little dustier here and there than usual, and I think if the pollen had been eliminated then the horses would have continued to be fine on our dry hay, but the issue with any breathing problem is that once the lungs are irritated, things that didn't irritate them before start too. I.e. hay they had been eating all winter suddenly wasn't tolerable with the extremely high pollen counts that suddenly hit in March 2023

.I ended up dunking haynets and researching heavily into a solution. My own lad ended up on a nebuliser (thank god for BreathEazy) and I explored the gut restoring route and tried various tonics from Trinity Consultants that really seemed to help. I put both of my boys on a course of gut restoration herbs to try and cover all basis but couldn't understand why they would have coughs based on their guts when their gut health should be so good due to how they live (minimal stress, out 24/7, mixed species meadow hay etc). After speaking to our friends at Gawsworth Track Livery  and how they had previously had horses coughing on dry hay that had cleared up on wrapped hay I started researching alot into that (and asking Bethan and Dan lots and lots of questions, thank you guys ).

 I was initially scared that wrapping the hay would make it too like haylage and potentially cause weight gain issues or gut issues caused by the higher PH level (there's a lot of scaremongering online) but I knew I couldn't continue dunking hay longterm, and steaming hay for such a large number of horses would be absolutely impossible. Especially the big bales!!!I found out that wrapped hay has a higher moisture content and thus makes it pretty much dust free. Wrapping also stops the bales from being able to absorb moisture from the environment which then turns into dust inside the bale. ( Side note- I also worried about myself and staff breathing in dust stuffing so many nets with the dry hay. Even through our hay wasn't 'dusty' there was still so many particles floating about and farmers lung is a real concern!).I discussed it with my hay provider and he agreed to wrap last year's hay for me. It was a learning curve for him too and I was very nervous!

Well, after a successful trial batch I gave the go ahead to have all of our hay wrapped for this year. We have been feeding this hay since September and apart from one batch of around 10 bales that were terrible (we figured out why - bad wrapping) the majority have been absolutely fantastic (and we use around 25ish bales per month). It smells like the day it was baled, is dust free and we have managed to get all of our COPD horses off their steroids and nebulisers! I also had it tested and it remains at below 10% ESC, PHEW Despite having a bad year for hay last year my provider pulled out all the stops and has made us some great hay, which was a relief. It's the same hay we have always fed, mixed species meadow hay from river meadows, unsprayed and organic, the only difference is it's wrapped!We get the odd one that is more like dry hay that I figure must have been wrapped at the end of the day and left to dry in the sun for longer, but as it's just the odd one and a bale only lasts me two days it comes and goes pretty quick without causing any irritation to our COPD lot.

Wrapping hay also means it has a higher nutritional content than dry hay which is fantastic, and being able to store it outside is really handy and frees up alot of space in my barn! (And makes it easier for the guys stacking it for me!!)I don't like the wrapping for environment reasons, but I found a company that recycle it and make it into animal houses (we have one for our goats!) so although I have to pay for this service, it's 100 worth it not going in landfill. Solway Recycling Ltd We are just coming into Spring now and the pollen will kick off soon which will be the real test. But without dry hay I think we have a much better chance at the pollen not causing too much of an upset.

 It's true what Bethan and Dan told me at GTL - once you wrap you'll never go back!!

* The email will not be published on the website.