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What Is a Hay Steamer?

Marlene Garcia
Marlene Garcia

A hay steamer represents a device used to remove dust, mites, fungal spores, and bacteria from hay fed to horses. Hay steamers come in various styles and sizes suitable for steaming a bale of hay or more. Use of a hay steamer might address respiratory problems suffered by some horses from allergies or inhaling harmful fungi or bacteria.

Owners of one or two horses might prefer a hay steamer that sterilizes one bale of hay at a time. Usually made of durable plastic, these containers have spikes inside that create openings for steam to enter the feed. A device outside the box attaches to interior vents to allow steam to penetrate the entire bale.

Hay steamers ensure that the hay is not harmful to horses.
Hay steamers ensure that the hay is not harmful to horses.

The steaming process typically takes 30 minutes to reach 212°F (100°C). Hay treated in a hay steamer comes out free from dust mites and active fungal and bacterial spores. If hay is broken down before placed in the steamer, treatment time might be reduced.

Some horses prefer eating hay directly from a steamer when it is still warm. The process releases the aroma of the feed and might improve appetites of finicky horses. Most nutrients remain in the hay after the steaming process.

A hay steamer may be used to sterilize bales of hay in order to safely feed them to horses.
A hay steamer may be used to sterilize bales of hay in order to safely feed them to horses.

Before hay steamers came on the market, horse owners commonly soaked bales in containers while pouring boiling water over them. Maintaining the proper temperature to kill fungi and bacteria was difficult in this method of sterilizing horse feed. Removing sodden bales from the container for drying created extra work and represented an uncomfortable chore in very cold climates.

A horse owner might opt to make a hay steamer as an alternative to buying one. An old refrigerator connected to a wallpaper steamer might serve the purpose if tightly sealed. Other equestrians fashion a hay steamer from a large barrel and portable steaming device. Thermometers can be used to test the temperature of a homemade hay steamer to ensure harmful substances are killed.

Horses acquire allergies to dust or mites that might cause respiratory problems. Inflammatory airway disease describes a condition that could worsen and affect horses' ability to exercise. The disorder might create a serious situation in race horses or show horses when they become easily winded. Other symptoms of this disorder include a cough and nasal discharge. Some respiratory problems might lead to digestive problems.

A hay steamer might prove especially useful in barns where dust is prevalent. People who work with horses might also suffer from hay fever or other health problems associated with inhaling substances found in hay. Farmer’s lung defines a respiratory condition common in people sensitive to dust and bacteria in hay.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hay steamer and how does it work?

A hay steamer is a device used to steam hay, which is a common feed for horses and other farm animals. It works by injecting steam into a container holding the hay, raising the temperature and moisture content. This process reduces dust, mold, and other allergens, making the hay safer and more palatable for animals to consume.

Why should I steam hay for my animals?

Steaming hay is beneficial for animals, particularly horses, with respiratory issues like heaves or allergies, as it can significantly reduce airborne irritants. According to research, steaming hay can decrease respirable dust particles by up to 98%. This can lead to improved respiratory health and overall well-being for your animals.

Can steaming hay affect its nutritional value?

Steaming hay has minimal impact on its nutritional value. While there may be a slight decrease in water-soluble nutrients like vitamin E and B complex vitamins, the benefits of reduced dust and mold typically outweigh these minor losses. Proper steaming techniques ensure that the core nutritional content of the hay remains intact.

How long does it take to steam hay, and how often should it be done?

The duration of steaming hay can vary depending on the steamer model and the amount of hay, but it generally takes between 30 minutes to an hour. Hay should be steamed before each feeding to ensure that it remains fresh and free from dust and mold, providing the best quality feed for your animals.

Is a hay steamer cost-effective compared to other methods of hay management?

While the initial investment in a hay steamer can be significant, it can be cost-effective in the long run, especially for animals with health issues that require clean hay. By reducing veterinary bills and medication costs associated with respiratory problems, a hay steamer can be a wise investment for maintaining animal health.

Are there any risks associated with using a hay steamer?

When used correctly, hay steamers are generally safe. However, improper use can lead to risks such as burns from hot steam or promoting bacterial growth if hay is left warm and moist for too long. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and to steam only as much hay as will be consumed promptly.

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    • Hay steamers ensure that the hay is not harmful to horses.
      By: Stefano Neri
      Hay steamers ensure that the hay is not harmful to horses.
    • A hay steamer may be used to sterilize bales of hay in order to safely feed them to horses.
      By: Mikhail Kondrashov
      A hay steamer may be used to sterilize bales of hay in order to safely feed them to horses.