Wild weather in the Midwest has left livestock producers on the hunt for hay very early in the year. As a result, horse owners may not have as easy a time finding it when they need it later this year.

“With the weather conditions across the Midwest and western U.S., the hay crop may be less than what is normal,” said Bob Coleman, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment equine extension specialist. “Not only horse owners but cattle producers, as well, are going to need forage for their animals, and reduced harvests can put those looking for hay in a tighter market than they are used to. Locally, we’ve had a lot of rain too, and that complicates things with our own hay harvest.”

Coleman said horse owners need to start planning for the feeding period now. Horses need good-quality hay to thrive in times when pasture forage is not plentiful or just not available.

“Reach out to hay suppliers you’ve used in the past,” he said. “Make sure you’re on their list and they have the hay you are going to need.”

A little math now, will go a long way. Owners should estimate the number of days they’ll need to feed hay and pad that number a bit. Horse owners can use a value of 2% of their horse’s body weight in hay per day for estimation purposes. Coleman said a little waste is inevitable, but owners should work hard to minimize it.

“Plan for 15% waste,” he said. “If you’re feeding hay on the ground, you could be losing up to 50% and that’ll really hurt your bottom line. Hay is so vitally important, you really don’t want to waste it. You’ll likely recoup the price of a hay feeder after the first year. No feeder is perfect, but having one will make a huge difference.”

Another factor to consider is where owners will store hay until they need it. Before storing hay, it’s important to have it tested for nutrient content to help with decisions about any necessary supplements.

“Figure out your hay budget and don’t forget to leave room in there for any supplement concentrates you may need,” Coleman said.”

With enough planning, horse owners will help their animals thrive and reduce their own stress in the process. – SUBMITTED

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