Horse Hay Budget HacksOctober 12, 2020
Purchasing hay supplies for equines is one of the largest expenses in the horsekeeping budget. Here are six hacks that can turn the tables on horse hay costs.
Quality Not Quantity
It makes no sense to purchase low-quality hay. Horses can be picky eaters and low-quality hay will often be discarded by horses, and/or tromped into the pasture and go to waste.
In the worst-case scenario dusty or moldy hay may cause colic in horses and require an expensive vet visit or even worse, could result in the death of the horse. Respiratory health (and thus the quality of performance, even in mild cases), can also be compromised in the equine by the presence of dusty/moldy hay in its environment regardless of whether it is ingested.
Poor quality hay can also include issues with weeds and vegetation in the hay that can be toxic to horses. Keep poor quality hay away from your horse and invest in clean and green, properly cured (less than 14% moisture) hay that is specifically produced for horses as opposed to cows and other livestock.
It is also wise to test the quality of the hay to validate its level of nutritional benefit.
Farmers that properly manage their hayfields will necessarily have higher expenses to maintain top quality forage so their hay may cost more per bale as a result. Be wary of the use of dry down agents and preservatives on hay that may not have been scientifically tested/proven to be safe for horses to ingest.
Talking of Wasting Hay
Horses that are fed with loose hay in a pasture will inevitably waste a large amount walking over it, peeing and pooping on it, and using it as a bed. Hay expenses can be cut as much as 30% by the use of an equine hay feeder.
Hay feeders come in many sizes to accommodate variant size herds and types of hay bales used, small or large squares, or large rounds. It is essential to horses’ safety to utilize a hay feeder that is specifically designed for equine use as cattle feeders may pose an injury hazard. Always remove halters from horses that are pastured with a hay feeder to help avoid halter buckles becoming tangled or caught on a feeder.
Leading modular horse barn construction company, Horizon Structures LLC, offers a wide range of equine hay feeders, and here is some feedback from their clients on the use of a feeder:
“I absolutely love my 4’ hay feeder and I wish I had bought it sooner. It saves me so much money on hay. I’ve been keeping horses for over 20 years and just bought one. If should have done this before! There is almost no hay wastage. The tray catches the scraps that the horses drop. I simply throw flakes of hay into the feeder over the fence and occasionally go in and clean out the tray……” Louise Mochocki, PA.
“We love our hay feeder a LOT. Our horses line up to come into our Horizon Structures run-in shed and use their Horizon Structures hay feeder. They prefer to be in their shed with their hay on hand than in the pastures. It’s like they’ve discovered their ‘Ritz Carlton’ lifestyle…..” Steve Torcise, Fletcher, NC.
1st Versus 2nd Cut Hay
Many horse owners prefer to feed their equines the slightly richer, softer 2nd cut hay over 1st cut, and 2nd cut hay is generally at least $1 more per bale than 1st for small squares and is always more expensive.
Many horses actually prefer 1st cut. It generally contains a broader variety of seed heads and grasses and offers more chewing satisfaction and variety of taste than 2nd cut hay that is mainly just grasses. Some grass types, timothy for instance, only produce a hayseed once a year so 2nd cut hay from timothy hayfields does not contain timothy, one of the preferred types of hay for horses.
Considerable money can be saved on hay costs by utilizing first cut hay for horses in low or medium work, and reserving the more expensive 2nd cut for breeding stock and high-performance equine athletes.
Buying Off The Wagons
Production of small square bales requires much labor and handling to stack and store. Farmers will often offer discount pricing to sell hay directly out of the wagons as soon as it comes off the fields to avoid double handling the product. If storage space is not an issue, purchasing hay supplies this way can save a considerable amount of money.
As all fresh-cut hay will ‘sweat up’ over the first two weeks, ensure that the hay is properly cured and not too high in moisture when baled (14% maximum at the time of pick up which can be ascertained by use of a hay wand), and store it in a well-ventilated, dry space following these suggested methods for best storage practices.
Share a Load
Buying hay in larger quantities can also save money on costs. Consider going in with a horse friend/neighbor on larger loads of hay and splitting the load.
Don’t Pay Without The Hay
As in any business, there are scams that regularly foil even the most experienced hay purchaser. Never pay for hay not yet received or give deposits in cash ahead of the hay arriving at the barn door.
Hay should always be inspected before purchase for quality and handing a payment for an undelivered product may cause a lot of heartaches as well as leave the purchaser empty-handed if the dealer/middleman is not honest.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Horizon Structures Inc., Atglen PA – Modular horse barn and indoor riding arena specialists. Horizon Structures also offers both residential and commercial kennels, coops, multi-use structures, and playsets. Please visit HorizonStructures.com to learn more.
By Nikki Alvin-Smith: As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 34 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international Grand Prix level to scores over 72% and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Baroque breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run Willowview Hill Farm, a private dressage breeding operation and training yard in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. Please visit nikkialvinsmithstudio.com to learn more about her services.