Help! I've Run Out of Horse Hay!

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To make sure your horse farm's hay shed stays full, calculate how much hay you need and order in your supply ahead of time.

This is the time of year that stables are most likely to run out of hay. Hay from the previous season is in short supply, and the new year’s crop is growing in the field or just being harvested. Most hay growers are also likely to be sold out or low on their supplies of hay as they prepare for storing the new season’s crop.

What can you do if you run out of hay?

Ask your feed store and local extension agent if they know any growers who still have hay available. When the local supply is depleted, it might be necessary to ship hay in from out of town or out of state. Hay brokers that specialize in buying and selling hay across the country have access to a wider network of supply.

Calculating your stable’s daily hay consumption can help reduce the chance of running out. Whether you order enough to last a month, six months or a year, there’s a simple calculation that can help you determine how much hay to keep on hand so you can feed the horses in your care.

“Horses typically consume 1.5 percent of their body weight a day in forage,” said Chris Johnson, owner of Eastern Hay Company in Pawling, New York. “For a 1,000-pound horse, that is 15 pounds of hay a day.”

He recommended multiplying the number of stalls in your barn by the number of pounds per day.

As an example, let’s assume that your barn has 20 stalls with each horse weighing approximately 1,000 pounds.

20 (stalls) x 15 (pounds) = 300 pounds of hay per day.

Always consider your horse population when doing this calculation. If you have a barn full of Thoroughbred eventers or hard-working hunter/jumpers, then you probably will need more hay per day. If you have a barn full of mature horses that don't work hard and seem to gain weight on air, then the 1.5% for planning should suffice.

Then if you plan on storing enough for a month, six months or a year, you multiply the daily figure by the daily rate needed to create an estimate of your needed hay supply. Using the scenario above:

300 pounds per day x 365 days= 109,500 pounds of hay or the equivalent of 54.5 tons.

Depending on the space available for storage, ordering 10 to 15 percent more than the minimum calculation can ensure you have enough in the event that new boarders arrive or some is lost to wastage.