Costs continue to rise all around us. From feed to footing, gas to grooming supplies and more, those climbing prices make it harder than ever to cover the bills for your horse business and still make a profit. To help out, we scoured a variety of sources in and outside the equine industry and compiled this list of 10 straightforward steps you can take to trim expenses and help boost your barn’s bottom line.
1. Use (and re-use) what you have
Empty feed sacks can serve as heavy-duty trash bags. Old wooden fencing (nails removed), empty barrels and old tires can morph into trail obstacles or cross-country jumps. Old office paper printed on just one side can be reused for internal needs, such as to-do lists or the rough drafts of letters, flyers and the like. Be creative and think twice about the “second career” an item might have before simply throwing it out.
2. Upgrade and repair instead of replacing
For example, instead of plunging into a pricey new computer purchase, talk to tech-savvy friends to see if you can simply add the memory, software or accessories you need to the computer you already own. If an aging tractor, truck or trailer needs serious repairs, compare the fix-up cost against the price of new equipment. (Of course, in some cases, it’s more cost-effective to stop making expensive repairs and buy the new item.)
3. Buy used for bargains
You might be surprised at how much you can save, and by just what you can purchase used—from farm and office equipment to tack and apparel; from feeders to jumps and public-address systems. Look for previously-owned bargains in local tack shops, the newspaper classifieds, electronics stores (for refurbished computers, etc.), equine or farm publications, auctions and the online site eBay. Remember to use caution, though, to make sure you’re getting a good value and not wasting money.
4. Rent or borrow what you need
This is often a money-savvy option for items you use only once in a while. For instance, if you hold just one show a year, renting a judge’s tent and loudspeakers for the event probably makes more sense than buying them outright. But if you hold several shows a year or have other uses for those items, then buying them might prove more cost-effective in the long run. Of course, any time you know someone with the equipment you need who might be willing to loan it to you for a specified period, that’s the best bargain of all!
5. Shop around
Whether you’re looking at new purchases and new suppliers or assessing current service costs, comparison shopping can yield savings. For instance, compare the price of horse health care and grooming supplies between local tack shops, mail-order catalogs and reputable Internet sites.
While the savings on a single item might be minimal, even penny-pincher differences add up over time, especially if you can find lower prices on multiple items. You can likewise comparison shop for feed and feed suppliers, manure and trash removal services, Internet service providers, phone service, building contractors and so on. Just make sure to roll such factors as quality and reliability into your calculations.
6. Buy in bulk to reap discounts
Feed and bedding suppliers, for instance, may waive a delivery charge or give you a percentage off if your order meets a certain amount. Similarly, you can often save money by purchasing bulk quantities of health and grooming supplies (think gallons of shampoo and cases of dewormer) than purchasing smaller containers more frequently. Concentrates are another good bulk buy, typically costing significantly less than purchasing the same amount pre-made. If you’re doing mail-order, you may also save on shipping charges by ordering less frequently.
7. Gather a group to share costs
Whether the vet comes out to see one horse or a dozen, you pay the same call fee, as long as there’s just one farm visit. Whenever possible, stack up routine care needs, so that most or all horses on the farm get care on the same day. Again, you’ll pay one call fee instead of several. Or, see if it makes sense for several neighboring farm owners to set up a vet call on one day, with horses congregating at a single point. That way, each owner should have to pay just one slice of the call fee.
Gathering a group of local farm owners may also allow you to build up a discount-worthy feed or bedding order if your facility is too small to qualify alone. Likewise, take advantage of the discounts you get through many association memberships, such as the United States Equestrian Federation or AQHA.
8. Barter services
If you know someone who has a way with words, perhaps they’d write up your farm brochure or help with content for your Website in exchange for some riding lessons—or some horse-manure fertilizer for their garden. Have a CPA among your boarders? Perhaps you can offer a discount off a month’s board for some expert assistance with your taxes. Know a painter who also happens to own a mare booked to your stallion? Offer a stud-fee discount or a set number of free mare-care days in exchange for his help painting your arena fence. You get the idea.
Along these lines, you can sometimes save money through sweat equity—that is, doing it yourself. For instance, depending on the size of your hay order, it might be feasible and money-saving for you to pick up bales from the farmer’s field instead of having it delivered. Or, if you have the skills and the time, do such tasks as minor barn repairs, truck oil changes and fence fix-ups yourself instead of paying others.
9. Hire part-time or temporary help
When a job doesn’t require full-time personnel, this route can save money on pay and benefits expenses. You can often find youth willing to muck, sweep and feed as a part-time job before or after school, perhaps even accepting lessons or board discounts in lieu of pay. For tasks that you only need done now and then, consider temporary help. For instance, maybe your office is calm and quiet much of the year, but swamped during the height of breeding season, when a temporary assistant would be handy. Or perhaps you do paint touch-ups on barns and fences once a year and need to bolster your regular staff just at that time.
High schools and colleges can also provide you with less-expensive assistance than their counterparts in the professional ranks. Need some tech help with your farm Website? Look for students enrolled in Web design and multimedia courses. Need assistance with your marketing and advertising materials? Seek out students studying those subjects.
10. Don’t forget your deductions
As a business, you probably qualify for many money-saving write-offs related to such expenses as phone, fax, Internet, equipment, travel, publications, professional memberships, advertising and more. Keep good records and consult with a professional who can help you wring the most legal deductions possible to reduce your tax bill.
Add It Up
Put even a few of these measures into practice, and you can start adding up the savings right away. And the more you implement, the bigger boost you can give to your bottom line—giving you more secure financial footing today and for the future.