Haylage is basically part hay and part silage. The grass is cut slightly earlier as compared to hay, between heading and flowering, but it is wilted and baled at around 50% to 65% DM, instead of 80% DM for hay.
The haylage is then fermented like silage. However, rather than going through extensive fermentation, a limited fermentation takes place because it is made using drier material. Haylage is popular among horse owners mainly due to lower levels of dust and mould as compared to hay.
Method of Preservation
It is still important to have a good lactic acid fermentation, hence the same management practices for silage applies. It is essential to pick an additive that will ensure a fast, efficient fermentation and also inhibit the yeasts and moulds that will cause heating and moulding. Due to the high dry matter, secondary clostridial fermentation would most likely not be an issue except for wetter pockets or if an animal carcass is present. This would lead to animal health problems. A good quality haylage will have a pH value in the range of 4.5 - 5.5.
Although haylage is similar to hay, it has higher moisture content and therefore should be fed at around 1.5 times the fresh weight as compared to hay. Good haylage will have a pleasant acidic odour and uniform in colour. It will feel moist but not mushy. In terms of nutritional content, good quality haylage will have around 10-13% crude protein and have a dry matter digestibility of around 65 - 70%. Due to the higher moisture content in haylage, there will be less leaf loss during harvesting as compared to hay, thus, resulting in higher protein content. Haylage is also more palatable and digestible as compared to hay, hence there is less wastage during feed-out.
Advantages of Hay:
Lower dust level as compared to hay
Less mould problems
Less weather dependent
Higher nutritional value compared to hay
Disadvantages of Hay:
More labour intensive
Sensitive to moisture variation
Potential risk of Listeriosis
Risk of aerobic spoilage and heating