HORSE QUESTION: Winter is coming fast here in my northern location. I have bought my hay for the horses and have been feeding them about a month or more now. One is already coughing real bad, another one pretty bad. What am I doing wrong? We always just put a round bale in their pasture when they run out?

The recommended course is to purchase different roughage without the dust/mold that causes horses to cough.

Since many people are unable or unwilling to purchase different feed, watering the hay down works but of course only until freeze-up in our northern climate.
Steps to follow for round bales are:

(1) Always peel the moldy outside of round bales and dispose of by burning or composting. The outside of the bale has the worst mold, unless the hay was baled to damp, then the mold is evident through out the entire bale. If mold is evident even after peeling some outside layers, then you must buy different feed!!! Such mold is often but not always evident (greenish, bluish, grayish) as you keep trying to dispose of the outside layers.

(2) If it is dust causing the coughing, it will be throughout the entire bale from cutting the crop to low to the ground, hay came from a field next to a busy dirt road where every passing vehicle churned up dust that drifted onto it, etc.

(3) The hay should be forked to the horses so it is spread out on the ground so that the Dust can dissipate as they walk through it, paw it and air currants can help remove it. Never feed dusty/moldy bales in round bale feeders as the horses bury their noses in it as they eat. Never feed such hay in solid type hay bunks where again, the dust/mold cannot dissipate.

(4) Some hays may contain "Allergens" from certain vegetation and weeds. Such Allergens will affect certain horses no matter what you do.

(5) NOTE: It is very easy to distinguish between Dust or Mold. By disturbing the bale of hay with your hand or with a pitch fork, dust goes "Poof" and quickly disappears. Mold Spores on the other hand, travels upwards and outwards like SMOKE before settling. Very easy to do once you get the hang of what your trying to determine. Really Moldy hay, you would swear when you hit the bale with your hand or whatever, that smoke is traveling up!

(6) Water by gently spraying the feed once it has been fed. Feed only enough for that day's feed. Wet feed must be consumed within 24 hours as left over feed quickly spoils. Spoiled feed must be disposed of before horses eat it.

NOTE: Both DUST and/or MOLD can cause "Heaves" (COPD) in horses that damages their air passages and lungs so they are never Sound again. Heaves (COPD) is often first noticed as a "Double Lift in a horses flank area as it tries to expel the air from it's lungs". With enough time, it does cause the horse to have to be Euthanized. There is an excellent document I have done on Heaves (COPD) under the OUR ARCHIVES section of my website.

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