Antibiotic resistance is often discussed in relation to humans, but it’s rapidly becoming an issue in the equine world as well. The answer is to reduce the chances of your horse getting a bacterial infection – so how can steaming hay help?

Over prescribed

Due to the efficiency of antibiotics, they are often over prescribed. As a result, there has been an increase in the incidence of antibiotic-associated complications in horses, the most severe of which is antibiotic-induced collitis.

Horses should be carefully assessed and only treated with antibiotics if they have a bacterial infection. The best strategy is to try to reduce the chances of your horse getting a bacterial infection in the first place. However, this is easier said than done.

One of the key sources of bacteria is hay. These bacteria are either inhaled or ingested and can cause both respiratory and digestive problems. Problematic particles within forage are extremely small and penetrate deep into the lungs and can cause allergenic respiratory problems.

Inflammatory airway disease

One study found that 84% of horses were suffering from inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and 72% had fungi in their airways.

The study also analysed different types of forage and found that Haygain steamed hay was the only method that significantly decreased the risk of finding fungi in the airways, which is the direct link to IAD.

IAD can affect horses and ponies of all ages and types. Clinical signs are usually subtle and can be missed unless correct investigative work is carried out. Poor performance and occasional coughing are two of the clinical signs to look for.

Clean forage

Steaming reduces respirable particles by 98% and dramatically reduces bacteria and mould content by 99%, producing clean forage that remains clean for at least 24 hours post-steam.

Soaking hay dampens down 90% of the respirable particles, but it also dramatically increases the bacterial content. A 10-minute soak resulted in a 150% increase in bacteria content in the forage.

Reducing the risk 

Not all diseases and ailments are preventable, but it is essential that we do our best to reduce the chances of them occurring. IAD is highly prevalent within the equine population and the presence of fungi is very noxious to a horse’s health.

This study has shown that proper environmental management and the provision of steamed forage is uniquely effective at reducing the risk of illness. You can see the full study here.  

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