A Swiss businessman has come up with a way of removing dust and pollen from horse feed, as more and more horses show signs of being allergic to traditional hay.
Hans Fankhauser says his invention could cure animals of their hay fever, while meeting all their dietary requirements.
So-called "eco hay", favoured by many owners, is now being blamed for a surge in allergies among horses
The hay, which has mature plants of different types mixed into it, can also cause digestive disorders such as colic and diarrhoea.
“Eco hay often contains a lot of dust and seeds, which get into horses’ nostrils and cause the common problems of coughing and sneezing,” said Fankhauser in an interview with Swiss television.
Fankhauser, who has his own farm, spent five years working with an engineer on a suction system for cleaning cut grass.
The resulting hay is free of the plants and leaves which can produce an allergic reaction in some horses.
The hypoallergenic hay and the machines for making it are now available to order from Fankhauser’s firm – Fanag – based in canton Bern.
The manufacturers say tests conducted by Bern University have shown that horses enjoy the product.
The specially developed fodder does not lead to colic, and appears to ease the breathing problems some horses experience.
Fankhauser has invested SFr1 million ($790,000) of Fanag capital in the new technology, and he admits that this is “a very big risk” for a small firm.
But his brand of horse fodder has already won over some high profile supporters.
Martin Schaudt, a member of Germany’s equestrian team, insisted that his horse, Weltall, be fed exclusively on Fanag’s hay during the Athens Olympics.
Weltall and his rider were part of the team that won gold for Germany in the dressage competition.
“I have to admit I’m very proud,” said Fankhauser.
Specialists estimate that 50% of all horses could suffer dust allergies.
Uncleaned hay often contains dust and pollen which can trigger allergies.
So-called "eco hay" contains mature plants which are considered unsuitable fodder for many horses.
Fanag’s hay consists of grass silage cleaned of any impurities.