Can Coastal Hay Cause Colic in Horses?

Find out why this grass is a popular hay for horses and how, in some cases, it might cause problems.

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Can Coastal Hay Cause Colic in Horses?
Not all coastal and not all Bermudagrass is going to increase the risk for impaction colic. Coastal Bermuda that has particularly fine stems and harvested when too mature might have an increased risk. | Photo:

Q. I recently rescued two horses and, as I’ve always done with my horses, am feeding orchard grass/alfalfa or timothy hay. My friend is boarding my 3-year-old Quarter Horse gelding while the new ones settle in, and she feeds her horse round-bale coastal hay. I’m concerned about my horse eating the coastal round bale, because I’ve heard that it can cause impactions. Is this true? If so, why, and can I take any steps to prevent it if my horse is eating coastal hay? —Lisa, via e-mail

A. Coastal hay is a type of Bermuda hay that has a reputation for increasing the risk of ileocecal impaction in horses. The belief that coastal hay causes impactions has been around for a long time, and in some cases might be true; however, Bermuda hay can make excellent forage for horses.

Why Bermuda is a Popular Choice

Bermudagrass is native to Southeast Africa and since the early 1800s it has been one of the most important grass species in the Southern United States. Several varieties exist, and coastal Bermuda was introduced to the United States in 1943. A warm-season perennial grass, Bermuda can withstand a wide range of soil types but demands fairly high nitrogen levels. In fact, given adequate moisture, nitrogen is the most limiting factor to forage production, and low nitrogen results in low crude protein content

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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