Feeding Coastal Hay

Curious to hear the hive minds thoughts. Envisioning a situation where coastal is being fed, does supplementing that with a flake of a coarser hay (orchard, Timothy, take your pick) twice a day with grain offset any of the risk of a horse having access to a round bale of coastal?

For sure, adding any other type of hay to a Coastal diet reduces the risk. So does keeping on top of deworming for tapeworms


My vet used to recommend feeding some alfalfa to add “scratch factor”. Partly I am sure because timothy or OG hay is hard to come by in this area and alfalfa usually is available at all the feed stores.

So I’m opening myself up to all kinds of attack, but I live in TX. I only have OTTBs who have come from CA, IA & KY and I feed coastal plus alfalfa. I’ve never (in 20 years) had a horse have problems with coastal. I also have 90 acres of pasture (which is also coastal and native grasses) and they are turned out most of the time. And to add to the disclosure, I had an OTTB with increasingly frequent and severe colic that was initially attributed to coastal and then sand colic (I’m in Hill Country on rock) by Texas A&M—which turned out to be a massively enlarged spleen ( I lost him after colic surgery with a COMPLETLEY clean gut). Had nothing to do with diet. I bought imported timothy hay (west coast) and fed for awhile, but it was massively expensive—not to mention I had to drive 5 hours each way to get it and the bales were 130 lbs each. Horses here (not mine!) live on cattle-quality coastal with no issues. I use horse-quality coastal. So…just contributing this as a reality check when you have to consider cost, travel, storage, etc. As long as the round bales are barn stored and not field-stored and not knowing your climate (potential for mold)—if your horses eat it, I’d guess its fine.


Forgot to say, my (currently one) horse (OTTB) also gets alfalfa once a day on top of pasture and free-choice coastal (horse quality) round bale he shares with a longhorn.

because you

and you

Adding in any other type of hay greatly mitigates the risk, AND, the risk is the hay, not the grass

So you’re good :slight_smile:

FWIW, when I boarded, with 30+ horses for most of those years, the hay was Coastal from somewhere in NSC. It was LOVELY hay, always cut young (another important factor) and despite only a couple of hours out of stalls for those horses (1-2 hours turnout, 1-2 hours of lessons or owner riding, most of the time), there were very, very few colics.

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I have never had any issues except for 1-2 very minor colics which resolved without veterinary intervention. I always think that if my horses were to have a more severe colic something would have to be catastrophic because it would be so unusual for that to happen.

I do know one barn that lost a horse- the horses there were fasted too long between feedings and always having issues with colic. Probably had ulcers. And they were stalled 24/7. The horse had a severe impaction. He probably bolted his hay in addition to having whatever digestive problems he already had. No slow feeders in that barn.

Tifton is better than regular coastal if you can find it.

I live in the land of Coastal hay. I have fed it in the past - Coastal only for a while and also a mixture of Timothy and Coastal (half and half, basically. Most people around here feed Coastal as it is easy to come by and much cheaper than northern hay. I have trouble getting comfortable with it, though.

I will say that every vet that I know will tell you that horses fed Coastal colic more frequently. Every. Single. Vet. They all prefer that their clients feed other hay.

I follow a podcast and blog from a Florida equine vet practice (Springhill Equine) and they tell their clients that if they are feeding Coastal they need to feed alfalfa as well.

It just makes sense that adding other hay in with Coastal should mitigate the impaction risk somewhat, so I would definitely recommend doing that if you are going to feed Coastal at all. My horses are easy keepers that could certainly benefit from the lower sugar and calories in Coastal hay, and every now and then I consider adding some to their diet, but the thought really makes me nervous. It would cut my hay bill, probably cut my horses weight down, and give them more chew time, so the option has its up side.

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They don’t necessarily need alfalfa, and there are too many easy keepers who can’t have alfalfa of any significance. It just needs to be a different hay, whether that’s fescue, Timothy, Orchard, any other type of Bermuda, etc.

Keep in mind too that a LOT of people equate Coastal with Bermuda, and a lot of people call the hay “Coastal” when it’s absolutely not.

Bermuda is a broad category of a lot of different types, ONE of which is Coastal.

I guarantee you aren’t growing Coastal if you’re in Maine :wink: Not even on the coast of Maine.

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When we first moved to the Carolinas, we were unaware of the increased colic risks associated with coastal hay. We were initially very lucky and had no issues. However we started taking additional precautions once we heard about the potential issues with impaction colic. We supplemented with non-coastal hay, included soaked beetpulp with all meals, and heated water sources/added salt to meals to encourage hydration. Even with those measures we had a bad colic that required a week’s stay at the university hospital. The mare was not a surgical candidate, and frankly we were just lucky that she pulled through. At that point, we decided we were no longer comfortable using any coastal bermuda at all.

We pay easily 4x as much for O/A hay from Canada, NY, or the mid-west, but it’s 100% worth it. To Us.
I know there are countless thousands of horses that eat coastal their whole lives with no problems at all. I also know the expression “it’s not a problem until it is”. I’ve got several local friends who used coastal for years with no colics until the big one, and it’s worth mentioning that when you call the area vets and tell them you have a horse with colic, the first question they ask is “is the horse on coastal hay?”

So, BL is that horses are expensive and suicidal to keep no matter what they eat and how they live. Only you can decide what risks you’re comfortable with. But keep in mind, you can afford a lot of fancy imported hay for the cost of one average colic surgery. And the more $$$ hay is easily offset by the peace of mind I have, not worrying about my horses every night. Or at least not worrying about colic…


@ElementFarm you are right - when called out for a colic, the very first question the vets ask is what kind of hay the horse is eating. Every time. My vet has told me that if he could convince his clients not to feed Coastal hay then his job would be significantly easier. This is why I just can’t get comfortable with feeding Coastal.

But how many horses colic on alfalfa or other grass hays?

There’s definitely a huge difference between 1st cutting bermudagrass, and the much larger bladed Tifton, it’s almost like you are looking at 2 different types of hay. Not all coastal is the same and management plays a role as well. Leftover coastal tends to be small waste pieces and plenty of them. Some horses will eat everything - others filter through and pick out the longer pieces, and leave the waste. That waste needs to be removed because the less picky eaters will gobble that up, even if it risks colic.

I have a mare that is like a garbage can - I pay close attention to what she gets, because she will eat anything. If there’s food in front of her, she’s stuffing her face as quickly as possible. And slow feed nets are made to be chewed through or broken open.

Yes, horses colic having never had a blade of Coastal. If it’s an impaction deal, usually it’s a hydration issue, but it can be that the hay itself was just too coarse.

It’s a proven fact that Coastal Bermuda specifically increases the risk of an ileal impaction, and that’s regardless of hydration. It’s a combination of the fineness of Coastal, and how easily it can be cut too mature which quickly makes it high in indigestible lignin, both of which contribute to getting stuck at the smaller ileal junction. That’s also where tapeworms like to hang out, which is why poor tapeworm control increases the risk of that specific impaction in horses eating Coastal.

Because “bermudagrass” is a whole category of a LOT Of types, Tifton is just 1. Some are larger-bladed, some are smaller.

Unless you’re talking about a per-cutting basis, that was the entire reason I made the comment "Keep in mind too that a LOT of people equate Coastal with Bermuda, and a lot of people call the hay “Coastal” when it’s absolutely not.

Coastal is Coastal, period. Tifton isn’t Coastal even though they’re both a type of Bermuda. And the same applies to every hay - not all Timothy is the same, not all Orchardgrass is the same.


Thanks everyone. This is helpful if not stressful feedback.

Currently, horse is thriving on OTA. I want to keep her on OTA. I hate fescue and more specifically coastal.

At least temporarily I have to move barns. It has been a 6 week search crossing out over 30 barns and then touring an additional 13 that seemed viable. 12/13 barns I toured feed fescue. They also had major concerns like footing, fencing, caregiver to horse ratios, etc.

This barn has safe fencing, seemingly good management, safe footing, and checks all boxes except for the coastal roundbales. They are out year round and until a stall opens up the horse would be out 24/7.

Horse in question is a phenomenal drinker and has been on fescue or a local grass blend birth until 6 months ago when I got her. I don’t want to go off OTA but I’m looking at $1200+ for standard board and 1-1.5hour drive one way to not be on coastal, fescue, or a grass blend that’s code for fescue coastal mix.

Im leaning towards a coarser OA or OTA blend where I can feed a robust flake 2x day when she’s grained and hopefully get a stall asap where I can control hay intake at least half the time. I’d rather avoid this entirely but I’ve got a rapidly approaching move out date.

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I have one coming home from TAMU today after an ileal impaction from Coastal Thankfully, the groom caught it early and it was non-surgical but the clinic said it was specifically from the coastal.

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If she’s not a broodmare it seems like a barn that feeds fescue would be a better option, care and facilities being otherwise equal?

That said I’m currently feeding coastal and Canadian timothy/orchard. My dad bought a winter’s worth of coastal for my retirees. One recently died (horrible accident, not colic or otherwise medical) so I have the other in my care along with my young horse. I’m already going to be pinched paying double field rent so I will use the coastal until it’s gone to stretch out my T/O. The young horse was on a coastal round bale from weaning until I got her last month and retiree (23 this year) has gotten only coastal for most of his life.

I can’t find anything decent. The boarding situation is truly dismal around here. Things encountered (all at different barns) during this search for stall board (all over $800):

  • uncapped t posts with two lines of sagging wire
  • only riding area an open field next to a very busy two lane highway “but the horses usually run home”
  • every horse is fed a 10% protein local feed no matter what
  • herd of 28 horses in one field
  • horses allowed to run from pasture to stalls
  • every other day turnout
  • can do other grains but owner must personally grain twice a day
  • believes in a diverse diet so hay is cold switched every week with whatever is available at the local feed store
  • urine is “nourishing” to the hooves so that’s why we don’t remove it until we strip stalls once a week
  • boot sucking manure-mud sludge seen as normal
  • 50x80 clay base “arena” with no footing
  • 20:1 caretaker to horse ratio and casual reference of a clients horse getting permanently injured in a pasture because “horses are dumb” for what was clearly a dangerous situation

If I could afford to go into a full training program starting at $1.8k it would open up a huge section locally. The $600 barns in 2020 are now $850 and the $850 barns either sold out to subdivisions or have become full training programs. There are a handful of nice sub $1k barns left but they have a waitlist 10+ horses deep because so many of us are desperate to get into better situation.

I too live in the land of coastal bermuda (Georgia and South Carolina). My horses all lived on coastal and sweet feed for 40 years. During the pandemic, and up until this day, I switched the present ones to alfalfa, orchard grass, and ration balancer. They were just more convenient to mail order from Chewy than risk my own health getting out among people to buy bermuda. Free delivery too, but it sure does not make the Fedex drivers very happy to unload all those compressed alfalfa bales at the barn every month.

My vets - three separate equine practices - keep urging me to return to using coastal. That is what they feed their own horses. I asked.

Oof that’s tough. I’m surprised that horse owners who can pay that board fee monthly apparently accept those kinds of issues! But I guess if everything remotely “affordable” is shoddy no one has a choice.

I think coastal is the far far lesser of all those evils and it sounds like you’re reaching the same conclusion. Do the best you can supplementing with a flake or two of something else - in a group turnout situation would she be assertive enough not to get run off of her “special” hay?

Funny enough my young horse was wasting quite a bit of T/O until I started subbing half coastal. She still starts on the T/O but has been cleaning everything up much better.

That’s so weird that you have vets advocating for feeding Coastal. I have never met a vet who didn’t encourage clients to feed other hays. I did the Chewy hay delivery thing for a while, too. Man, those cardboard boxes add up!