Erin Michalski could be the poster girl for highest quality hay.
Her horses all get hay grown in high-altitude meadows in Central Colorado. The region, Park County’s South Park, was reported to be the source of hay the Queen of England insisted be sent across the sea for her own horses in the late 1880s.
Those meadows are Erin’s backyard – 3,000 acres that comprise her family’s Eagle Rock Ranch in Jefferson, Colorado. Meticulous attention to every detail of the Timothy hay’s planting, growth and harvest results in pristine forage that is high in protein, low in sugar and certified “weed free” by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
“You might wonder why I steam hay when we know our hay is so high quality,” Erin acknowledges.
Reducing dust is the main reason Erin added Haygain Hay Steaming to the daily care of her family’s Quarter Horses. And that makes Erin like thousands of owners whose horses’ hay comes from much less familiar and reliable sources.
Harnessing The Sun
“Make hay while the sun shines” is more than a motto at Eagle Rock Ranch. “We cut in the sunshine, the hay is ‘tedded’ in the sunshine and baled in the sunshine,” Erin explains. Doing these steps in dry, sunny weather is all about reducing moisture and the potential for mold growth that comes with it. “We are sticklers about moisture content!”
That leaves just dust to contend with.
“All of our hay is stored and that’s where the dust comes in,” says Erin, a second generation cattle rancher, western performance equestrian and busy mother of three.
“Our hay is naturally more dry when we harvest it, and it’s grown in dirt,” Erin notes. “So, even though we don’t let it sit in the field, after it’s baled, it does get dusty. When you open the door to the hay barn, the wind kicks up, a car backs up to pick up a load, etc.”
Erin’s “heart horse,” Mr. Chocoholic, got her thinking about hay steaming initially. “He’s a hay soaker,” she says of her retired reiner by the famous AQHA sire Chocolate Chic Olena. Erin wondered if “Troy’s” habit reflected his body’s desire for more moisture in his forage. With up to three times the moisture content of dry forage, Haygain Steamed Hay is ideal for helping ensure adequate water in the diet to support healthy digestion and year-round hydration.
Since the family’s horses started getting Steamed Hay, Erin noticed another older horse was coughing significantly less than when he’d been eating unsteamed hay.
Above all, hay steaming simply made sense to Erin.
Quality is a core value in everything Eagle Rock does. The Black Angus cattle they raise is known for top quality beef, distinguished by ample marbling, fine texture and unique flavor. The cattle all thrive on “horse hay,’ not lesser quality “cattle hay” that is often fed to beef cattle. Part of this philosophy is that, “If we are eating beef from our cattle, they need to be getting the highest quality diet.”
Hence, Erin’s intrigue at the prospect of enhancing already high-quality hay by steaming it to reduce dust and add moisture.
Erin is equally thrilled with the Forager Slow Feeder as the ideal way to feed Steamed Hay. Her first Forager arrived as the family was heading to the Colorado State Fair Horse Show earlier this summer. Erin threw the box in the trailer and reports the Slow Feeder was easily assembled while settling their barrel racers and ranch versatility horses into their show stalls.
“The difference between how the stall with the Forager looked compared to the stall without the Forager was night and day,” she shares. “I’d say we saved at least a flake of hay every day using the Forager. That really adds up.” There was less of the family’s precious hay wasted, and less time spent picking it out of the bedding.
With the summer gymkhana season and haying time behind them, Erin and the Eagle Ranch team are settling in for winter. The high country’s low temperatures give her another reason to love their new Hay Steamer – “I love being able to give our horses something warm when it’s cold outside. When I haul the wheelbarrow in, they dive right into it!”