Source: Bob Coleman, Extension Equine Specialist
With winter just around the corner, hopefully horse owners secured sufficient hay supplies. How do you estimate the amount of hay you will need? If you have mature horses at maintenance level, you would want to feed a mainly forage diet.
The estimate would be similar to a 1,100-pound horse eating 2 percent of its body weight. That equals 22 pounds of hay per day. Feeding for 120 days, December through March would equal 1.3 tons of hay per horse.
What can you do to make the best of your hay inventory? First, having a feed test is a good idea. That way, you can make the best use of the nutrients supplied by the hay and supplement as needed. If you are unsure about getting your hay tested, you can contact your county agriculture and natural resources extension agent for help.
Second, you should feed the amount your horse needs per day. That essentially means taking some control over the feed intake. Feeding free choice can result in your horses eating more than they need each day to meet their nutritional needs. This can be a difficult task for those who are using hay rolls rather than square-bales.
Third, use a suitable feeder for your horses to limit waste. Feeding on the ground can result in significant losses of feed. Researchers using square-bale hay, fed in controlled amounts, reported waste in the rage of 20 percent, while others feeding roll-bale hay without a feeder, reported waste in the 35 to 38-percent range. In that case, horse owners would need at least a half ton more hay per horse.
And finally, when you are buying hay, purchase the best quality hay possible.
As the feeding season progresses, monitor your horses to make sure they are maintaining body condition and adjust feed as needed. If you are short on hay, you may need to feed some concentrate to provide all the nutrients your horses require.
If you estimate correctly, you should have some hay left when spring grass finally arrives. It is better to have some leftover than to run out in March.
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