WAS: I don't know what else to do NOW: Soaking hay

Nancy C

Wanted to report my most recent experience with testing and feeding a year of soaked hay 2012-2013. 

This hay was grown under odd conditions for us.  Working with UNH, the fields had been fertilized in the fall (lime, potassium and phos) and after mud season (nitrogen) to soil specs. Dolomite lime to bring up Mag.  Can look up how much of what if anyone is interested.

Snow fall 2011-2012 was below normal. No rain for the month of April.  Heavy rains May and early June. As  result, all growth to first cut came in some 30 days.

Our normally low esc and starch hay came in at 9.2 esc and 0.1 starch. Started feeding it and then I got a clue and decided it really needed to be soaked - all winter long. 

I soaked this hay in a Cabela's 120 qt cooler on wheels.  Each feeding sat in cold water for the prior 12 hours. Was the only way I was going to be able to deal with doing this in the winter conditions we usually get: ice, snow, well-below zero temps with high winds contributing to even more fun.

Many of you know  the group recommends that for long term feeding  you should test the soaked hay and balance to those results. 

Pre and post results were interesting (to me anyway):

Esc went from 9.2 to 3.1.  As a side note, we use 30% as a number but that is really the average.  It can be much higher or lower depending on how much and temp water, length of time, etc.

Starch went from 0.1 to 1.2

Iron and manganese both went down. Fe 103 to 98.  Mn 54 to 29.  This could be sample differences, IMO.

The majors were significant: Ca went down .51 to .33.  Phos went down from .20 to .080.  Mag from .24 to .11. Potassium from 1.59 to 0.37.

I was surprised as most  experiences previously reported on the group and then supported in research  by Longland, showed it was Potassium that was the affected, ie water-soluble, major.

In talking over with Dr Kellon and others, we posited  that the minerals in the first batch may have still been on the hay, rather than in it, due to lack of adequate rain. 

Your mileage may vary....

Nancy C in NH
ECIR Moderator 2003
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Kathy Brinkerhoff

Hi Nancy,

Bear with me as my brain is a tad scrambled following this hay soaking thread.  Are you saying that you do soak the hay for 12 hours and what you posted are the results of hay soaked for 12 hours?  So why the recommendation to soak in cold water for 1 hour or hot water for 30 minutes?   Going forward what is the hay soaking recommendation/s from the Board?


Kathy Brinkerhoff

SE/WI  10/12

Nancy C

I soaked for 12 hours in an insulated cooler which keeps the hay from spoiling in the heat or freezing in the cold with good room for adequate water.   Easy to drain.  And yes, those results were from that soak.

As far as I am aware the recs of the ECIR Group are to soak 30 mins in hot water, 60 in cold.  I had to adapt to what worked for me through the summer and winter and wanted to share my one-rat findings in this current thread.  Pretty sure I've done so before, at least the bit about the cooler and 12 hours, but I may be wrong.


Nancy C in NH
ECIR Group Mod
February 2003


Kathy Brinkerhoff

Hi Nancy,

Thank you,

I realized that one couldn't soak out starch and that is what I advise the owners I help.  My original question was could the 12 hr soaking cause the hay to reabsorb the sugar, but based on your analysis it appears it might cause the starch to increase?  ESC (sugar), Ca, P Mg and K all decreased.  I may have missed it but what happened to iron?

What would you advise an owner (Coral) who had a difficult time sourcing hay and finally found a hay with ESC 5.9% and Starch 2.9%?  My concern was that there might be too much starch in this hay for an IR horse (Po) and that it might need soaking based on symptoms when feeding it.  If she is soaking it for 12 hours, might she not be increasing starch while decreasing sugar based on your results?  I assume you would recommend she send a sample/s for analysis. 

Kathy Brinkerhoff

SE/WI  10/12

Kathy Brinkerhoff

Let me clarify......I didn't think that one could decrease the starch by soaking in the hay (ESC 5.9% and Starch 2.9%), but that one could lower the ESC (sugar) so the hay could be fed to an IR horse.

Kathy Brinkerhoff

SE/WI 10/12