How hay quality affects animal health

Anyone who keeps farm animals knows the relationship between good hay and general animal health. Good hay stimulates ruminant animals, e.g., cows and goats to ruminate. It promotes grazing behaviour with the rumen, prevents metabolic diseases, and has a positive effect on milk yield and quality.

The better the basic feed quality, the better the milk quality

For ruminants such as cows and goats, feeding with high quality hay is vital. Quality hay stimulates salivation, promotes rumination and digestion, and provides the animals with all the necessary nutrients. In addition, quality hay enables a higher feed intake, as it contains less feed-inhibiting lactic acid than inferior hay silages. The most important components of hay include crude proteins, crude fibres and sugar. To cover their daily requirements, dairy cows need about 90 g of the crude proteins, which include the protein building blocks, amino acids, proteins and proteids. Crude fibres are nutrients for the rumen microbes and help digestion. Sugars are short-chained, rapidly degradable carbohydrates, which account for more than 13% of hay. Due to the high sugar content in machine-dried hay, approx. 0.75 kg of concentrated feed can be saved with each kilogram of hay without affecting the milk yield. Hay does not need an attractant such as molasses, the addition of which is prohibited in hard cheese dairies. And it does not contain the fermentation acids that are present in silage. In contrast, hay has a higher proportion of undegraded dietary protein (UDP), which in combination with the NPN (non-protein nitrogen) or ammonia broken down in the rumen, can be better digested and used by ruminants.

 

Healthy food, healthy goats and sheep

Hay is essential for a healthy diet for goats and sheep. Particular attention must be paid to the hay quality. This is because goats are choosy and need many herbs and leaves for their health. Since traditional ground drying of fodder plants causes a large part of the leaves and buds to be lost due to crumb and flake losses, mechanical hay drying is recommended. As herbs must be dried gently, and due to the small temperature differences between the drying air and the herbs, a technical hay drying process using a heat pump is well-suited. In sheep, on the other hand, feeding with sufficient protein and energy content is absolutely necessary. Technical hay drying guarantees this high hay quality required for animal health and hygiene. Another disadvantage of traditional hay drying methods: With poor silage, small ruminants such as goats and sheep are at risk of listeriosis.


Hay for horses: Simply essential

Prof. Ellen Kienzle from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich states that hay is the most important food for horses. A 650 kg horse requires around 10 kg of high-quality hay every day. That is around 1.5 kg of hay per 100 kg body weight.


Less dust, less risk of allergies

Horse breeders and owners are aware of the risk of respiratory diseases among the popular hoofed animals. Allergies or a hypersensitivity to dust are conditions that can occur very frequently in horses. It is mostly caused by low quality hay and straw, in which a lot of dust, mould, mites and bacteria can accumulate to become serious irritants. Machine-dried hay can significantly reduce the risk of a dust allergy, and generally contribute to the health of animals that spend a lot of time in stalls. Horses need a long time to eat their daily hay ration, and so it is an important way of passing time for the animals. This is especially the case for horses that spend a lot of time in stalls.


Only use quality hay for horses

According to veterinarian and microbiologist, Dr. Dorothe Meyer, a horse can just feed on hay without any problems. However, the best possible quality should be ensured. In addition to fats, minerals, trace elements and vitamins, hay contains a lot of energy, protein and sugar, and the crude fibres that are indispensable for digestion. Crude fibres are low-soluble carbohydrates that are broken down by microbes in the large intestine. When feeding hay to horses, it must be ensured that the hay has a crude fibre content of at least 20%. For this, the stalks must not be too long at the time of cutting, as the length of the stalk also reduces its crude fibre content. Lignin is usually contained in upper grass that is too long. A horse cannot break down lignin in its large intestine, however. And this can lead to severe colic, which is the most common natural cause of death in horses.



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