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“Holy Hay” Makes Healthy Horses
Sainfoin hay is helping keep horses healthy. The legume known as “holy hay” is recognized for its palatability and health benefits. StableFeed is making it more widely available for horse owners with their sainfoin forage products.
“We’ve made big headway in creating a market for sainfoin hay,” says Mary Hartman, StableFeed. “It’s a sustainable crop raised without fertilizer, additives, and pesticides. In the future, as people realize the value in it, it’ll have its place next to alfalfa, not just as forage for horses, but also for cattle, sheep, deer and elk.”
Hartman has built a business based on feeds designed to improve horse health. When her horse developed health problems, her research into horse nutrition led her to give the animal chia seed-based biscuits for its stomach ulcers and other maladies.
Seeing a dramatic improvement in its health and appearance, she gave the biscuits to other horses also. At the same time, she became aware of research in the U.K. that suggested benefits of sainfoin as a food for horses with health problems.
Sainfoin’s high tannin levels reduce gas production in the gastrointestinal tract, reducing the likelihood of colic or bloat. It has also been shown to slow chewing time while increasing saliva production and water intake, both of which are important for gastrointestinal health.
The tannins also increase the utilization of protein throughout the body. This produces better topline and more effective maintenance of topline/muscling in hard-working horses and improved hoof horn. In cattle, it produces faster growth and better hides.
Sainfoin has also been shown to help control parasitic worms in cattle, sheep and goats. Limited testing with horses suggests some impact on parasite control.
“When other people heard my story, they wanted to try the chia and sainfoin,” says Hartman. “We’ve had animals literally at death’s door and seen them turn around and regain their health.”
The positive results she saw led her to work with Minnesota’s Agricultural Utilization Research Institute to do product research and development for both chia and sainfoin-based feeds. She now markets the horse healthy feeds through her website, as well as through a handful of dealers, mostly in the eastern U.S.
She has begun marketing Glenview sainfoin seed, a cultivar developed at the Lethbridge Research and Development Center (LRDC), Lethbridge, Canada. The new cultivar was developed to grow and compete with grass.
“The older varieties were hard to establish and didn’t like wet feet,” says Hartman. “This scared people away from planting it.”
Hartman secures most of her sainfoin supply for her products from Montana and Wyoming. However, she is also contracting production in Minnesota, where she is based and believes it has a much more widespread potential.
“We had a beautiful crop last year,” she says. “We seeded at 35 lbs. per acre and got 2 1/2 tons per acre with our first cutting.”
The LDRC promotes sainfoin as drought tolerant and good for the soil. It has a long deep taproot, fixes nitrogen, sequesters phosphates, and supports pollinators. It helps restore soil health.
Hartman is selling the Glenview sainfoin for $4.10 a pound and is eager to find more growers. “Every time an article comes out on sainfoin, we get more potential growers,” she says. “The more we grow, the more we can make changes in horse health.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, StableFeed, 302 5th St. SE, Kasson, Minn. 55944 (ph 507-487-2323; sales@stablefeed.com; www.stablefeed.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #2