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Options for feeding coastal bermuda hay?

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    Options for feeding coastal bermuda hay?

    I have been unhappy at my current barn for quite awhile and was happy to "stumble" into a new boarding opportunity last week -- the main advantage being that my drive time will go from 50 min one-way to <10 min one-way! New barn is a private barn with only one other boarder (there will be a total of 6 horses, including my two) and seems to check all the boxes. However, my only concern is that the new barn feeds square bales (not rounds) of coastal bermuda hay (we are in an area where that is the easiest/most commonly grown hay). The hay is grown across the street from the farm and barn owner said hay is good quality (with an offer to show me nutritional testing on each cutting, that in hindsight I probably should have asked to see). While I grew up riding at a barn that fed coastal (and I remember a lot of colicky horses!), I have not been at a barn that fed coastal in quite a long time and have heard my fair share of bad colic stories attributed to coastal, so I don't have a lot of personal experience with it.

    My two are currently on just pasture, but get a timothy/orchard mix (mostly timothy) during the winter months when the pasture goes dormant. New BO has stated that she would be willing to feed mine an alternative hay that I supply at my cost, with no reduction in board. For reference, I supply hay for my two at my current barn and new board price is the same as old board price, so providing my own hay won't really change my overall costs. While I would like to save a little bit of money, I am certainly fine with still purchasing and supplying my own hay if that's the best option.

    For those that feed (or have fed) coastal, do you have thoughts on each option below?
    Option A -- Feed one flake of her coastal and one flake of alfalfa (that I provide) at each feeding; I do have one that gets a little (ok, a lot) nutty when he's on alfalfa unless he's in heavy, heavy work, so that option worries me a little bit for him
    Option B -- Provide my own timothy/orchard hay to be fed at both feedings
    Option C -- Feed one flake of her coastal and one flake of timothy/orchard (that I provide) at each feeding
    Any other options I am not considering? I do not feel comfortable feeding just coastal alone.

    My two will be in a 5 acre pasture by themselves that is overseeded with rye for the winter, out mostly 24/7, only coming into a stall during extremely cold weather (which is rare here). I haven't been at a farm that overseeded with winter rye in a long time, so I might be overestimating how much hay they will need. At the current barn (which does not overseed for winter), they need 3 flakes each AM & PM to maintain throughout the winter.

    I will be discussing it with my vet, though I think she will recommend option A based on previous conversations we have had. I just wanted to get some perspectives from others who have fed (or currently feed) coastal.


    Many, many, many horses in the Deep South do just fine on coastal Bermudagrass hay. There are some horses who absolutely can't tolerate it, but most do just fine. When I lived in an area where coastal was the most (only, really) commonly available hay option, I did feed a small amount (~5 pounds/day) of alfalfa or perennial peanut hay to my senior and young/growing horses in addition to their free-choice coastal to increase the overall nutritional quality of their forage. But the easy keepers got just coastal and did very well on it - it tends to be low in NSC, which was very, very helpful for my Arabs.

    Be aware that "winter rye" (annual rye grass) is VERY high in sugar, so if your horses are at all prone to obesity/metabolic issues, that may be a much bigger problem for you than the coastal.


      All else equal, avoid Coastal. It's simply a fact that there is a significant increased risk of an ileal impaction with a 100% Coastal diet. Of course not all horses - I grew up riding and boarding at a barn with 15-30 horses at any given time (the higher end for most of that), and Coastal was all that was fed. There were few colics that I knew of, and this was high quality hay. But at some point something changed and fescue was fed as around half that hay.

      Next best is mixing in other grass hays, at least 50%.

      Ideal is of course no Coastal.

      A mix may be all you need. Grass hay will let you feed more without the additional calories. The alfalfa of course is more calories, but can also help with keeping warm, especially on colder Winter nights.

      and yes, do check on that Winter rye - if that's THE grass for that pasture, full time, that's potentially a whole lot of sugar, and a desire to eat less hay even if the hay is what they really need.
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


        I'd stay away from it, especially for horses that aren't used to it.

        My horse was on it his entire life but ended up getting colic surgery for an impaction.

        Only way I'd feed it is if I saw an analysis of every batch and if the acid detergent fiber and digestible energy were good.


          I have one of those horses that cannot be on coastal hay. Thankfully I live in Colorado so this is mostly a non issue but I ran into an issue where the hay pellets that I was using switched from alfalfa to alfalfa/Bermuda. It really didn’t take long for me to quickly find out that she is one of those horses that can’t do Bermuda.

          If your brave, you can try it and just keep a very close eye. But if it was me, personally I like buying my own hay at any boarding situation.If that’s an option, I’d do that. When you buy your own hay you don’t have to fight with the BO about how much they’re feeding, what they’re feeding, the quality, and all that. It also gives you a little flexibility to manage your horses weight/ condition. If they’re ulcery you have the freedom to add alfalfa in, if they’re overweight you can go with something lower carb and so on. You just buy the hay you think your horse needs and that’s that. Also when the hay is fixed in board it’s hard to know you’re getting your moneys worth. If your horse is 900lbs but another boarders is 1300lbs your getting less out of your money. But when you buy your own hay all the money you spend on it goes to your horse and not your neighbors. It’s a hassle but worth it IMO.


            We live in Coastal Hay area, and used it in round bales for a couple of years (we fed small square orchard/timothy in stalls). We tried to offset the colic risks by A: having the horses get access to the hay in slowly increased increments, and B: feeding a good quantity of beet pulp with every grain meal to help keep everything moving.

            After one mare colicked badly, necessitating a few days stay at the University vet clinic (luckily she pulled through, as she wasn't a surgical candidate) we realized we were uncomfortable with feeding coastal, even though thousands of horses eat only coastal and do fine. Now we pay about triple for large bales of orchard or orchard/timothy from the midwest, NY, or canada. To me, it's worth the extra hassle and expense.

            In your case, I would do option B or option C.
            A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's does that...



              I live in North Texas where coastal is typically the only option or the only affordable option. I feed coastal rounds in the pastures and squares in the stalls and have never had a colic due to my hay. My gelding has never had any other hay as a major part of his diet and has never colicked, many performance barns in the area feed it free choice with no colics. Here, a 3 string bale of coastal runs ~$20, alfalfa ~$25 (which a lot of horses I've encountered don't handle an alfalfa only diet), and timothy ~$40. A coastal round is $65 delivered to my place. I don't think I can get an alfalfa or timothy round. I can get also get rounds in Teff, native grass, and a few other options that aren't horse safe. The majority of the horses I've worked with in the past 5 years (300+) have been absolutely fine with a 100% coastal diet. I recall 3 that needed something else, 1 was due to colic, 1 choke, and 1 had no teeth and would just quid and coastal cubes just aren't a thing.


                I live in the land of Coastal hay. I have fed it in the past but I can never get entirely comfortable with it. When I did feed it I fed wet beet pulp at every meal and augmented the Coastal with a cool season hay. These days I keep my horses on Orchard with a bit of alfalfa mixed in. I have also fed Timothy, but find that my horses waste more of it than other hays.

                I will say if you live in the South and you have a colic the FIRST question your vet will ask is what kind of hay you are feeding. Every time. If the answer is Coastal the worry factor goes up considerably.


                  I have never heard of anyone having concerns about coastal until I picked up my yearling filly from her breeder in north Texas this past July. Our arrangement was that I would pay for a bag of her current feed and a bale of her current hay to bring home with her, to transition to my feed and hay. I was shocked when the owner brought out a bale of alfalfa! I asked her about it and she told me then that alfalfa is all she feeds, and that "Coastal is the number 1 killer of horses." I, on the other hand had only fed coastal and never even bought a bale of alfalfa before in 40 some-odd years of owning and caring for horses. So I just kind of shrugged it off, and fed the filly the alfalfa while I slowly introduced her to coastal, until that bale was done. The filly is fine on her new regimen (all my horses are and always have been), but it's interesting to me, in light of her owner's statement, to read now that others think and feel the same. Never heard of that before.

                  I did continue buying alfalfa, but only feed it on occasion and just spread it out as a "top dress" for their regular hay. It's a treat for them. So old dogs can learn new tricks - or ways to make their horses happy, at least!

                  I will say that here is the southern part of Texas, we're finding ourselves dealing with a condition (?) called Naso-pharyngeal Cicatrix, that my vet said may be coming from the coastal. Either that or just the soil, they really don't know. I've had one older gelding develop it, he could generally breathe okay but eventually passed for a different reason (not colic either). But that's the only thing I've heard related to feeding coastal that was negative.


                    I've chimed in above, but to the folks who've never heard that Bermuda Coastal can increase colic risk, here are a few articles that came up on a google search:
                    The BL is that many coastal varieties are very fine stemmed, which present increased risk for impaction.




                    A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's does that...



                      Originally posted by ElementFarm View Post
                      The BL is that many coastal varieties are very fine stemmed, which present increased risk for impaction.
                      There is only 1 Coastal - that *is* the variety.

                      There are many Bermuda varieties, but it's Coastal that carries this particular risk of ileal impaction because of its inherently fine stems,, which makes it harder for horses to chew it well. It's also one that quickly degrades in digestibility as it grows, so unless it's being harvested frequently (something like every 3-4 weeks max), it's likely to be more of an issue.

                      The last article is one that keeps perpetuating the myth that "Bermuda causes colic" because it's lumping all Bermuda varieties into one, and that's not fair to any of them. It doesn't even mention Coastal
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                        Original Poster

                        Thank you everyone for your replies! My vet will be out for fall shots later this week and I'll discuss it more with her but I think I'm leaning towards just supplying my own hay. To me, the (maybe slightly? or more) increased risk isn't worth trying to save a little bit of money (although that would be nice!).

                        For those asking, my horses already get 1 cup soaked beet pulp AM&PM with every meal and, while they are currently on a low starch feed, they will be switching over (gradually) to a low starch/low sugar feed when they arrive at the new barn. Neither horse has metabolic issues, but that is certainly something I will keep an eye on.



                          If it were me, I'd go for option A or C.

                          I've only been in Florida almost four years but I have not had any issues with Coastal. The general rule of thumb is a slow transition for a horse that hasn't had it before, and feeding it in combination with another grass hay or alfalfa works well.


                            I could have written this exact post right now. I'm deciding between current boarding barn and new boarding barn. My horse has a MAJOR digestion issue with coastal and, if fed, he will certainly colic. I know, because he colicked just about weekly for 9-10 months before we finally figured out it was the hay causing it. I would avoid the coastal at all costs. Like you, where I currently board, I supply my own Tim and Orch on top of board. The new place will charge more than current place, but it evens out to be the same as what I'm paying now because they will include my T and O in the price of board. I'm going with the new place...most likely. To answer your question, I prefer to stay away from the coastal. There are 40+ horses on the current farm with ZERO issues on it, but mine certainly is not one of them.
                            20% off code for Hay Chix hay nets--


                              You chose to do what I was going to suggest - buy the hay your horses are eating.
                              If it makes you feel better about having to pay extra for the hay think of it as a trade off for the time and gas you will be saving.

                              3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375 10582097494459230781640628620899862803482534211706 79821480865132823066470938446095505822317253594081 284811174502841027019385.....


                                Originally posted by JB View Post

                                There is only 1 Coastal - that *is* the variety.

                                There are many Bermuda varieties, but it's Coastal that carries this particular risk of ileal impaction because of its inherently fine stems,, which makes it harder for horses to chew it well. It's also one that quickly degrades in digestibility as it grows, so unless it's being harvested frequently (something like every 3-4 weeks max), it's likely to be more of an issue.

                                The last article is one that keeps perpetuating the myth that "Bermuda causes colic" because it's lumping all Bermuda varieties into one, and that's not fair to any of them. It doesn't even mention Coastal
                                I have been trying to find information regarding other varieties of Bermudagrass hays. One of the major growers in my area is replacing his coastal fields with on of the Tifton hybrid varieties, mostly Tifton 85 if I recall correctly. I am curious if this variety would be more digestible. Most of the research I am finding online is either about tonnage production, hardiness of the stand, or regarding beef cattle gains. Do you by chance have an opinion regarding the Tifton 85 variety or any other words of wisdom?

                                OP: sorry to hijack your thread!


                                  lenapesadie Tifton 85 is a much better Bermuda in general, with coarser stems (in a good way)
                                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                    Originally posted by JB View Post
                                    lenapesadie Tifton 85 is a much better Bermuda in general, with coarser stems (in a good way)
                                    Thank you kindly!


                                      I tried to feed Tifton 85 once years ago. My horses ate it for a day and said "No way". I don't see it advertised for sale much around here ( Alabama). I see mostly Tifton 44 ( less common than it used to be), Alicia and Russell. My horses didn't like Russell all that much either. I had one mild colic feeding very fine Tifton 44 which I cannot be entirely sure was caused by the hay. So I started adding OG hay to their diet along with bermuda which is easily sourced around here. They decided they loved OG and no longer could possibly eat bermuda. Since I hate paying for hay they won't eat I dropped the bermuda.

                                      My vet clinic that deals with colic surgeries a lot recommends adding some alfalfa for "scratch factor" to go along with feeding bermuda to lessen the chance of impactions. Alfalfa is a lot easier to source around here since various people bring in truck loads to sell but NOBODY in this state brings in truckloads of cool season grass hay to sell. I did notice that my pony ( that had always been fed bermuda) had a lot harder, drier, smaller poop balls when he was eating bermuda. He has never colicked though so I don't know how significant that is. And it seems that the horses that have the worst time with bermuda are the ones that have grown up eating other types of hay. Lots of horses down here that grow up on it never have problems.

                                      But you can buy a lot of nice hay with a vet bill.


                                        Originally posted by SusanO View Post

                                        But you can buy a lot of nice hay with a vet bill.
                                        I totally agree with this. I have had a few minor colics in the past, and every time it was when I was feeding at least partial Coastal hay. I have never met a vet that was a fan of feeding Coastal. In fact, they all strongly encourage NOT feeding it. My main vet said if he could make his clients do one thing it would be to feed any hay but Coastal. He said it would change his practice and his life for the better.

                                        I know that feeding northern hays is not a guarantee that my horses will never colic, but at least I have done all I can to prevent a colic from happening. It is more expensive to buy non Coastal hay but one vet bill from colic can negate any savings, and possibly cost me my horse in the process.