Sourcing horse hay from a local grower can be a convenient option. Proximity for delivery and price can be two reasons equine stable managers choose to work with local growers. Buying from a local grower also means you might have an opportunity to see the hay before it is delivered. Depending on how close the fields are to your barn, you might even be able to watch it grow in the fields, and see it get cut, dried and baled.
Whether you’ve been working with the same grower for years or you’re searching for a new supplier, ask the grower about the hay’s nutritional value. Request a hay analysis that provides the nutritional content of the hay.
“Knowing the nutrient profile of the hay allows you to make smart decisions about what to feed, which will save you money as well as making sure that your horse is receiving the proper nutrition,” said Chris Johnson, owner of Eastern Hay Company in Pawling, New York.
It takes healthy soils to produce nutritious hay. Working with a local grower means you have an opportunity to learn how they are maintaining and improving their soil health, which ultimately impacts quality. “Find out if the grower is building the nutrients in the soil since that is the foundation for growing nutrient-rich hay,” he said. “Also, wind can blow in weed seeds, which without proper management can affect the quality of the hay."
Like any supplier, some local growers have space to store hay throughout the year, while others plan to sell all that is harvested. Plan to buy your supply early in the season while the crop is being harvested and baled for the best price and availability. You can also ask if the grower can store your hay until he delivers it a bit at a time or you can pick it up.
If you’re new to the area or looking to change suppliers, your local feed store, county extension agent or state agricultural department should be able to provide contact information for reputable hay producers in your area.