The effect of five different wetting treatments on the nutrient content and microbial concentration in hay for horses

Meriel Jean Scott Moore-Colyer, Kimberly Lumbis, Annette Longland, Patricia Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Five different hays were used to determine the effect of 5 different soaking and steaming treatments on the water soluble carbohydrate and microbial (bacteria and mould) contents of UK hay. Hays were subjected to the following 5 treatments: 1. Dry; 2. Steamed for 50 minutes in the Haygain- 600 steamer; 3. Soaked in water at 16°C for 9 hours; 4. Steamed then soaked and 5. Soaked then steamed. Post treatment hays were tested for water soluble carbohydrates, bacteria and mould contents. Differences between means were determined using ANOVA and least significant difference with hay (5), bale (3) and treatment (5) as fixed factors, thus n = 75. Protein and ash proportions were unaltered in any of the treatments. Soaked, steamed then soaked and soaked then steamed treatments were all equally effective at reducing water soluble carbohydrates, with significantly (P<0.05) lower mean contents (79-83 g/kg DM) compared with 126 and 122 g/kg dry matter (DM) for dry and steamed respectively. Steamed and soaked then steamed had significantly (P<0.05) less bacteria (1.04×103 and 4.9×102 CFU/g DM) compared with soaked which increased CFU/g DM from 6.0×104 in dry hay up to 3.5×105. Mould contents CFU/g DM were significantly (P<0.05) reduced by steaming (2) and soaking then steaming (1.9) but no difference was seen between dry (1148), soaked (692) or steamed then soaked (501). Soaking for 9 hours followed by steaming for 50 minutes in the Haygain steamer was the most effective method for reducing water soluble carbohydrates and microbial contamination in hay. Soaking or steaming+soaking lowered water soluble carbohydrates but significantly reduced the hygienic quality of the hay which could potentially compromise the health of the horse.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere114079
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal Feed/analysis
  • Animals
  • Carbohydrates/analysis
  • Horses
  • Steam
  • Sterilization/methods


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