There are many reasons to use a slow feed hay net or hay bag and a few different style options to fit your needs. Feeding hay from a bag or net can have health benefits and alleviate boredom for your horse. Hay nets and hay bags can also save you money and time.
Slow Feed Hay Nets and Bags: Why Use One?
Hay is an important part of your horse’s diet. Unfortunately, hay is easily wasted both in the stall and out in the field by most horses. Any hay bag or net will ease waste by keeping hay contained and off the ground. Slow feed hay nets waste less hay than larger hole hay nets. Your horse will have the benefit of getting more hay while you will also save money and time as you’ll be throwing away less wasted hay.
Hay bags and nets are easily hung in stalls and in pastures. Slow feed hay bags will take almost no time to fill and hang, but will keep your horse eating for longer than if you were feeding from the ground. A Dura-Tech® StableHand™ can help you fill hay nets and bags faster and easier. Slow-feeding can prevent vices and boredom in stalls and dry lots.
By far the biggest benefits of using a slow feed hay net are health related. Horse’s digestive systems are built for grazing, not for individual meals. Horses eating out of slow feed hay bags mimic grazing as it allows for small amounts over a longer period. It can lower a horse’s cortisol which is a hormone related to stress. Offering hay in a slow feed situation can help with overweight horses as it prevents gorging and it will take them longer to eat the same amount. Slow feed hay nets and bags can also can also help hard keepers that are picky as they keep hay clean and fresh longer.
Underweight horses will also benefit from slow feed hay bags as proper digestion is more likely when the hay is eaten slowly over time. This will increase gut motility while also keeping the hind gut consistently full to prevent twisting. By increasing digestion, you also increase the absorption of calories and nutrients to spur weight gain.
Slow-feeding can also reduce the risk of some digestive health issues. Use of slow feed hay nets increases chewing which stimulates saliva production. Saliva decreases the harm of excess stomach acid, which can help prevent ulcers. If a horse does not eat hay slowly they may not have produced enough saliva in proportion to the hay eaten. The risk of colic increases if there is not enough moisture in proportion to hay.
Research gathered from multiple sources and intended only as a guide. For specific medical questions and concerns, please consult your veterinarian.
Slow Feed Hay Nets and Bags: What Kind to Use?
You know the benefits of slow-feeding but which hay bag or net do you choose? There are several types of bags and nets to choose from. First, you’ll need to consider how often you’ll want to change the net. If you intend for the hay to last most of the day and only want to put one up at breakfast and dinner you’ll want to consider a larger capacity slow feed hay net (see photo above). A hay net typically will be able to fit more than a hay bag so you’ll need to fill and change them less often.
Another question is, where do you plan to use it? Hay bags are more popularly used in trailers as there are varieties to fit in corners, rectangular shaped bags, or double-sided bags (see photo below), but not many hay bags are slow feed. Hay nets tend to be more popular for use in stalls and pastures as they can hold more and come with smaller holes for slower feeding options.
Durability should also be considered. Hay nets can come in a few rope materials like nylon, polyester, or a poly/cotton blend. Most hay bags are either nylon or polyester material. All of these materials are designed to be durable, but polyester materials are generally the most durable.
The hole size determines how much the horse’s feeding will be slowed down. Hole size can vary greatly, but slow feed hay nets usually range from about 1.5×1.5 inch holes to 3×3 inch holes. Most hay bags that are considered slow feed have around 2.5×2.5 inch holes. While hay nets and bags with larger holes don’t slow down the horse’s feeding as much as slow feeds, they can still help conserve hay by keeping it off the ground.
Slow feed hay bags and nets offer a variety of benefits for both you and your horse. There are many different options out there for slow feed hay nets and bags. We hope this information helps you find the right one for you and your horse!