Murphy’s Law of Horse Ownership: If you own horses, at some point you will encounter the frustration of finding a quality hay supply and making it last.
Below is a list of suggestions that can help keep your sanity and your hay supply intact!
1. Set up designated feeding areas for your horses to help minimize waste and keep the hay from getting trampled and soiled.
2. Prevent boredom. Horses do need to graze almost constantly to keep a healthy gut moving and prevent colic and also in colder weather to maintain proper body temperature, but often horses will eat out of boredom. Keeping safe, durable toys available can help liven up down-time between feedings and keep your horse’s mind active. Also, making quality grass or oat hay available as a filler keeps them busy while extending the life of your higher-cost, more nutritional forage.
3. Ideally, veterinarians recommend that your horse be fed 1.5 to 2.0% of his body weight in roughage each day. That translates into 15 to 20 pounds of hay each day for a 1,000-pound horse. Supplement your horse’s diet with alternative forage or feeds. Research haylage, beet pulp, soaked hay cubes/pellets (soak to prevent choke) or other types of forage that can help add nutritional value.
4. Be conscious of quality. Feeding better quality hay can translate to having to feed less. Hays that contain a lot of weeds or have gotten wet should never be fed. Don’t discount hold-overs from last year’s cuttings, even if it is a little dusty. You can always wet it down a bit to cut the dust. Be sure to carefully inspect though as white mold can be sometimes mistaken for dust.
5. Build slow feeders or utilize hay bags to keep horses from gorging themselves. Pinterest and YouTube are great sources for tutorials and building plans for many different types of feeders. Always be careful to follow instructions when building a feeder or hanging hay bags to prevent entanglement or injury. Hay bags should be hung at shoulder height as it is unnatural for a horse to eat with its head high, and at ground level they can get caught on shoes or tangled around legs. Properly hanging a hay bag will also help extend the life of the bag itself.