Horse owners may want to lock in hay supplies for winter and spring

Are you ready for the hay feeding season? Price and availability may be different than in previous years.

During the 2011 hay growing season, there have been a lot of challenges for those that produce dry hay. Considering the very wet conditions in May and June, followed by drought conditions during the second half of the summer for subsequent cuttings, options for horse owners may be as big a problem when they try to secure their hay supply in coming months. Though the overall supply of hay seems to be adequate in Michigan, the supply of clean, mold and dust-free, horse-quality hay will be in shorter supply.

The prices for hay in the winter months are expected to be higher and continue to climb over previous years due to the severe drought in the deep south and the flooding that occurred in the east coast. Accessing the Michigan Hay Sellers List may provide the opportunity for horse owners to find hay sellers in their area.

Knowing how much hay and the quality you need for your horses is the first step in determining the amount of hay to secure. Most horses will consume approximately 2 to 2.2 percent of their body weight per day in forage intake. Producers should also include the amount of feed loss they expect when figuring their hay needs. These losses can be between 5 to 50 percent, depending on the type of feeding system you have for your horses. The highest feed losses will occur when hay is fed on the ground with no rack versus feeding in some form of hay containment for lower feed losses.

How much hay is needed to be bought, and at what price? Remember, the size of the bale makes a difference in how many bales will be needed. In addition to the hay cost, will there be transportation and labor costs to get the hay into your barn or storage area? As an example, assume you have three horses that average 1,100 pounds and they consume 2.1 percent of their body weight in forage per day, and the horses have a 15 percent loss at the feed bunk and your feeding period is for seven months or 210 days. Each bale weighs 45 pounds.

1100 lbs. x 2.1% = 23 lbs. of hay per day x 3 = 69 lbs. + 15% (feed loss) = ~ 80 lbs. per day
80 lbs. x 210 = 16,800 lbs. ÷ 45 (lbs. per bale) = 374 bales
374 bales x $5.00 = $1,870

x $4.00 = $1,496
x $3.00 = $1,122
x $2.50 = $ 935

As with most agricultural commodities, the price of hay will vary depending on the quality, size of bales, time of cut and services associated with your supplier. Always remember, there’s a lot more to hay than the price. Taking the time to sort out the details for your particular needs prior to securing your hay will be important for each producer.

Read other articles related to late planting and high feed costs.

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