Steaming Your Hay, Versus Soaking It (article from - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 12-23-2013, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Post Steaming Your Hay, Versus Soaking It (article from

Soaking hay in water is a common practice used to reduce dust and non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) levels for horses with respiratory or metabolic conditions. But soaking can leach essential nutrients, such as phosphorus and magnesium, from hay and be labor-intensive.

In the last few years hay steaming has gained popularity as a soaking alternative, but how does it compare to soaking? University of Minnesota researchers, who recently studied soaking’s effect on hay, set out to answer that question.

“We had been receiving many questions from horse owners and professionals about the effectiveness of steaming on forage quality and no data (that we could find) existed,” explained Krishona Martinson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science.

The group set out to evaluate steaming’s effects on four factors:

Nutritive values, including dry mater (DM), crude protein, water soluble carbohydrates (WSC), ethanol soluble carbohydrates (ESC), calcium, and phosphorus among others;
Mold concentrations;
Airborne dust particles (TSP, or total suspended particulates); and
Horses’ voluntary dry matter (DM) intake.
Two hay producers harvested two lots of alfalfa-orchardgrass small-square bales at different moisture levels. The researchers randomly selected 40 bales from each lot and took core samples from 26 bales in each lot to analyze.

Then, the team classified the bales as having either low mold (LM) or medium mold (MM) concentrations. Researchers then selected 10 LM and 10 MM bales to steam for 90 minutes using The Professional Hay Steamer by Happy Horse Products, Ltd. Samples from the steamed bales were also analyzed.

Finally, the team fed six adult horses steamed and un-steamed LM and MM hay in a 10-day crossover design to measure the animals' hay intake. Horses received both steamed and un-steamed hay from one lot simultaneously for a 2-hour period each day.

The team concluded that steaming hay:

Reduced the DM concentration for LM and MM hay, by 14 and 11%, respectively;
Reduced WSC by 12% and ESC by 31% in MM hay, but had no effect on WSC or ESC in LM hay;
Did not affect other measured nutritive values in MM or LM hay;
Reduced mold concentrations in by 99% in LM hay and 91% in MM hay; and
Considerably reduced TSP in MM hay (by 55%) but did not affect TSP in LM hay.
Additionally, the researchers found that steaming did not increase horses' MM hay intake, but horses did consume more LM hay after steaming. Martinson explained this could be because steaming kills the mold, but doesn’t remove it: “If mold had an unpalatable flavor …. its mere presence, whether dead or alive, likely affected forage intake rates.”

Martinson said the main benefit of steaming appears to be the increase in consumption of good-quality hay. She added that “steamed hay might be useful for horses recovering from surgery, malnourished horses, older horses with poor teeth, or picky eaters.”

Martinson said soaking is likely “more affordable and a better solution when managing horses with respiratory issues or when the goal is leaching out NSC (for horse with laminitis, EMS, obesity) or potassium (for horses with HYPP).”

Steaming's Effect Horse Hay Studied |
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-23-2013, 10:45 PM Thread Starter
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Found this interesting lol, didn't know if anyone else would as well but thought I'd toss it on here... Also, ANYBODY out there actually steam their hay? Mind explaining the process?
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post #3 of 10 Old 12-24-2013, 10:13 AM
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Steaming is a new wrinkle to me.
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post #4 of 10 Old 12-24-2013, 10:49 AM
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For people with money to burn.
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post #5 of 10 Old 12-24-2013, 10:56 AM
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1. Soaking is specifically to leech starches out of high NSC hay (or is WSC used these days?) for metabolic horses.

I tried that trick once and promptly stopped on the first freezing day of the winter. I learned, thru hay testing, it wasn't my hay anyway -- it's the grass. Our soil is also high in iron, therefore deficient in copper which doesn't help the insulin resistant cause.

2. Steaming hay has been around for a very long time to treat horses with heaves (COPD in today's world). Steamers can be made at home with coolers, if the horse is really bad.

For horses with mild coughing issues and whose sides haven't "sucked up" yet, from all that heavy breathing, sprinkling water on the hay to dampen it works just as well

There still are some things from the "good old days" that work as well or better than new technology, provided they are tempered with some common sense
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post #6 of 10 Old 12-24-2013, 10:56 AM
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I've heard of people steaming hay by pouring very hot water over the hay in a bucket and then covering it so the steam collects. I can't imagine that's nearly as effective a method as the super-expensive steaming devices since most people would be limited to hot tap water for that method.
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-26-2013, 02:16 AM
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What's LM & MM hay? Wouldn't mind seeing the analysis(?) What does steaming do for potassium, magnesium & nitrogen levels?
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-26-2013, 09:48 AM
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We steamed our hay one year! Took a stock tank, and added hot water that was boiled from kettles. Made a lid to sit on top while the hay "steamed". Only took about 5-10 minutes for the hay to finish. Worked very well for that year!
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-26-2013, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by loosie View Post
What's LM & MM hay? Wouldn't mind seeing the analysis(?) What does steaming do for potassium, magnesium & nitrogen levels?
In the article it states that LM is low mold hay, and MM is medium mold hay, I assume distinguished by some number measuring mold spores in the bales and classifying them as such.

Article said that in MM hay that was steamed, phosphorous, magnesium, etc. levels decreased by 31% (Or so I gather from reading it) but they did not decrease at all from the Low Mold hay? That seems like a pretty drastic difference to me, I would think that at least some of those nutritional levels would decrease..

This is an interesting article- though going through the time of steaming hay seems long-winded- I certainly haven't the time to do that for the amount of hay my horse consumes per day!
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-26-2013, 07:32 PM
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^Whoops, looked twice before asking above, but didn't see the LM & MM sorry. But the article says reducing ESC(ethanol soluable carbs) by 31% & DIDN'T affect other nutritive values.

As it doesn't specify further on 'nutritive values', I wondered about water soluable mins, as I don't get how it would leach out carbs without affecting these levels. Also if it doesn't reduce Ca, K, N, etc, this means that could still be at problematic levels... Just thinking in type...
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feeding , hay , soaking , steaming

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