Hay is expensive around here and we go through a lot of it.  Sometimes it is in short supply so I can’t afford to waste it.  Here are some money saving tips to make sure you get the most out of your hay money.

1. BUY GOOD HAY – new season hay that has been stored well is ideal.  If the hay is old, of poor quality, or hasn’t been stored well, the horses may not eat it.  It may also make a horse ill.  Make sure your hay has no mould, weeds or dust. Older hay can still be good if it has been stored well, in fact its lower nutritional value may be good for your dieting horses. The  time of day your hay is cut, whether it is first or second cut, and how much moisture it has will influence hay quality.  We can’t necessarily be choosy with what hay we can buy, but it is good to know what you are feeding your horses.

2.  BUY FARMER DIRECT – if you have the opportunity to buy directly from a farmer, this can save you a lot of money.  It also means you know exactly where it comes from and what is in it.  It may mean you need to buy in bulk, and that may not work for you, but perhaps you could get a load with a few friends to share. If you find a good farmer, stick with him/her.  Loyalty will be the key to success in always having quality hay available.

3.  STORE YOUR HAY WELL – if you buy in bulk, make sure you have a way to keep your hay dry.  Undercover and off the ground is ideal.  Using old tyres or pallets will keep your hay off the ground and a tarp will keep the rain off.  It needs air flow so don’t stack all your bales in too tight.  Make sure there is air between them. Indoors or under a roof is great but make sure the building doesn’t get a lot of condensation.  The University of Tennessee did some research on storing hay and found hay loss percentages as follows.

  • Stored on the ground with no cover, 37% loss.
  • Stored on tires with no cover, 29% loss.
  • Stored on the ground and covered, 29% loss.
  • Stored on tires and covered, 8% loss.
  • Net wrapped and on the ground, 19% loss.
  • Stored in the barn, 6% loss.

4. USE A SLOW RELEASE HAY NET – nets will stop your horses from throwing around their hay and using it as a toilet or a bed.  It also slows down their consumption.  It is important for the horse’s digestive system to eat most of the day so feeding through a slow release net is important for their health.  Research at a Minnesota University shows that using nets with small or medium holes can stretch out eating time up to 2 or 3 times longer than if no net was used.  There are many companies selling slow release nets.  Liberty Horse Supplies sells all sizes with the option of three different hole sizes to suit every horse.

5.  WEATHER PROOF YOUR HAY WHILE FED OUT – once you have put your hay out for your horses, does it stay dry?  If you feed small amounts often, this probably doesn’t matter.  If you feed out large round bales you may find it gets too weathered and you waste a lot.  Use a hay feeder with a roof. There are many designs available.  Liberty Supplies Hay Rings, for example,  keep your hay dry while allowing your horse to have plenty of head space while eating. While these Hay Rings are designed for round bales, they can also be used for smaller square bales.  When used in partnership with a release net, Liberty Supplies Hay Rings can make sure you have 0% hay wastage.

While these 5 tips are ideal ways to save you money on hay, they may not work for everyone.  Have a look at how much money you spend on hay and think if there are any ways you can improve your purchasing, storage or feeding out methods to save you hay and money.  If you do have hay wastage, put it to good use and let it enrich your soils by using it as mulch.  Just keep in mind how expensive your mulch is.  It might be cheaper to save your good hay and buy old hay for mulch.