Horses are exceptionally sensitive to dust and mold particles found in their bedding and hay. Consistent exposure can cause horses to develop respiratory problems and even skin allergies. As a horse owner, you should do all that you can to ensure your horses are happy and healthy. Using a hay steamer is one way you can help reduce the risk of respiratory problems in your horses.
But what is hay steaming? How does it work and what are the environmental benefits?
Hay steaming is a technique used to reduce airborne dust and mold that can cause respiratory issues in horses (and humans). The process is a simple one:
- A steam generator creates steam
- The steam travels through a hose connected to a closed container that holds the hay
With the right setup, the hay can reach over 212°F (100°C), a temperature that has been proven to kill mold, bacteria, and fungal spores. When successful, the process can reduce airborne dust by up to 98%.
Hay steaming is already popular in Europe, and now, it’s gaining traction in the United States. But it’s not the only method you can use to reduce airborne dust and mold. Soaking is another way to accomplish the same goal.
Steaming vs Soaking Hay
Steaming and soaking can both reduce airborne dust and mold in hay. Long before steamers were commercially available, horse owners would soak hay for anywhere from 10 minutes to 12 hours before draining.
Soaking has also been shown to reduce airborne dust by a significant amount – up to 90%. Dampening the hay makes dust less likely to be inhaled.
While cost-effective and simple, soaking hay does have its drawbacks.
- It’s not as effective as steaming at reducing airborne dust particles.
- Soaking can increase bacteria levels by up to fivefold.
- Soaking reduces the nutritional value of the hay, as protein, minerals and carbohydrates leach out into the water.
- The post-soak liquid is considered a pollutant. In fact, lengthy soaks can produce a liquid that’s nine times more polluting than sewage.
Generally, horses find soaked hay less palatable compared to their steamed or dry counterparts.
While both methods can achieve similar outcomes, steaming is the preferred technique for reducing airborne mold and dust in hay. Apart from being overall better for the horse, steamed hay is better for the environment. The post-soak liquid can’t be dumped down drains and must be disposed of responsibly.
What are the Benefits of Using a Hay Steamer?
Steamed hay offers a number of benefits for horses and the environment.
Less Water Consumption
One big environmental benefit of steaming hay is that it uses less water than soaking. It takes 50-250 liters of water to fill a container for hay soaking.
Along with increasing water bills, soaking hay regularly can take a toll on the environment.
Respiratory and Skin Benefits
As you already know, steaming hay has respiratory benefits for horses. It reduces airborne mold and dust by over 90%.
Steaming can also help reduce bacterial contaminants that cause skin allergies.
Improved Digestive Health and Hydration
Untreated hay can contain microbial contaminants that cause digestive issues in horses. These contaminants disrupt the horse’s natural microbial balance, leading to dysbiosis and conditions like colic.
Steaming raises the hay’s temperature high enough to kill bacteria that causes digestive issues.
Along with supporting healthy digestion, steaming can also help horses stay hydrated. Untreated hay contains just 10-20% water. Steaming adds moisture to support hydration and makes it easier for horses to chew.
One big disadvantage of soaking hay is that the water-soluble protein, carbohydrates and minerals leach out into the water. The hay then becomes less nutrient-dense.
Research has shown that mineral and protein levels were unaltered from steaming. As a result, horses enjoy more nutrient-rich hay that’s more palatable and enticing – even for picky eaters.
Haygain Hay Steamers for Sale
Haygain offers state-of-the-art hay steamers that help you experience all of the benefits of steamed hay on your farm or homestead. Three different models are available, with full-bale models capable of feeding up to four horses.
Haygain HG 2000
The HG 2000 is the most advanced hay steamer in the company’s lineup. Operating the unit requires two 1500W sockets to power the HG 2000 properly. Two manifolds will work to inject steam throughout the sealed chest. Even steam distribution ensures that the bales are evenly steamed and reach 212°F.
Reaching this temperature will:
- Kill bacteria
- Kill mold
Steaming takes around 60 minutes and uses a dual, 1.5kW steam generator. You can use either a haynet or loose wedges, weighing 44 – 66 pounds. You can feed 4+ horses with the HG 2000.
Users appreciate the wheels and handle that make it easy to move the HG 2000 around the stable. Open the lid to check the hay and use the descaler sachets to clean the unit.
The chest features thermal insulation and a double-skinned design to keep the hay at the perfect temperature for steaming.
Haygain includes the following with your purchase:
- Watering can
- Filling funnel
Steamers are backed by a one-year warranty.
Haygain HG 600
If you have 2+ horses, the HG 600 is the “middle” option between the HG 2000 and HG ONE. Users will enjoy the same patented technology, but forage capacity is between 20 and 31 pounds.
Horses will appreciate the lower respiratory irritation level from steaming with this model.
Haygain’s unique steaming technology is designed to maintain all of the nutrients in forage, ensuring that your horses enjoy nutrient-rich hay day after day. Steam goes through the thermally sealed chest and keeps temperatures at 212°F throughout for even steaming.
In 60 minutes, forage is ready for consumption. The unit weighs 90.39 pounds, and this includes the container and a 1.5 kW steam generator. You’ll find it easy to reposition this steamer or even travel with it thanks to the handle and wheel design.
Dimensions are 23” x 22” x 23”.
Similar to the previous model on our list, Haygain includes:
- 2 descaler sachets
- Filling funnel
- Watering can
Buyers also receive a one-year warranty, free shipping and access to a dedicated service team that is willing to answer any questions you have before ordering.
Haygain HG ONE
The HG ONE is Haygain’s entry-level model, and its portability makes it ideal for travel. The HG ONE can hold up to 15 lbs. of forage in a haynet and has a steaming cycle of 60 minutes. The system comes with a 1.5kW steam generator and weighs a little over 50 lbs.
The chest is thermally insulated and double-skinned, with an easy-open lid that makes this system easy to use.
Haygain includes a dipstick, funnel and descaler sachets with this model. It’s backed by a one-year warranty, too.
Steamed hay offers a number of benefits for horses, the environment and humans. Investing in a quality hay steamer will allow you to feed your horses nutrient-rich hay that supports healthy digestion and reduces the risk of respiratory problems.