With severe drought being reported across the majority of the country and an extreme shortage of the 2012 hay crop, many horse owners are unable to find hay for the winter. Others have learned that their regular hay suppliers have sold them out and are shipping their hay to other parts of the country where livestock owners are already paying $10-$12 a bale.
“Without a doubt this is going to be a challenging fall and winter for many horse owners,” said Horse Cent$ Magazine editor Laurie Cerny. “If you didn’t get any first cutting hay, you need to make some serious changes in your feeding regimen right now while you still have some hay in your barn.”
Here are some suggestions:
- Feed smaller amounts of hay more often. Instead of feeding two flakes twice or three times of hay, feed one flake every 3-4 hours. Yes, it takes more time, but horses will not get as hungry in between feedings and this will enable you to decrease the amount you’re feeding after a couple of days.
- Feed your least desirable hay when horses are the hungriest, usually first thing in the morning. Horses aren’t as picky and waste less when they are hungry. For example, if you normally feed one flake of first cutting and one of second cutting, feed the flake of first cutting first.
- Limit group feedings. Feeding multiple horses in one area is a great way to waste hay. Unless you are using good feeders, horses (especially young ones and picky eaters), will push it around on the ground searching for what they like best, trample it, and poop on it. Try to feed the majority of your hay in the stalls; what is wasted can then be used as bedding.
- Consider round bales. Many horse owners don’t want to feed round bales thinking the hay may be inferior (put up wetter then square bales, etc.), and that horses overeat when given unlimited access to feed. In some areas of the country – where more round bales are made then squares, this may be the only hay source available. Round bales can be fed much like squares. Simply store near your feed area, cut the stings, and then pull off sections and feed just like you would feed flakes from square bales.
- Stretch your hay source now by adding a complete feed to your feed rations. Although grain prices are expected to go up, the availability should be better than it is for hay.