Cost of Feeding Horses

“The Rest of the Story…Cost of
Feeding Horses”
Mindy Hubert,
Small Acreage Field Specialist
SDSU Extension
[email protected]
Many acreage owners are also new to
Horse Ownership
Many New Acreage Owners:
• Migrate from urban areas / areas of higher rainfall
• Have little (if any) grazing mgmt experience
• Assume 5-10 acres will last “all year” or “ all
– unfamiliar with Western SD stocking rates
So…why are Stocking Rates important?
they are directly related to the Cost of
Feeding Horses
Higher stocking rates now= buy more hay later!
Stocking Rate Review:
= The amount of land allocated to a
grazing animal for a specific length of
• 1 cow/calf pair = 1 AU
• 1 adult horse = 1.25 AU
– Due to horses’ grazing behavior
(trampling, constantly grazing)
Stocking Rate Review
• Stocking rates vary drastically:
o Region to region
o Many new acreage owners come from areas of
greater rain fall
o MN/eastern SD: 1 horse/ 0.8-1 acre /month
o Western SD: 1 horse /2.5-4 acres/ month
o (3.5x more acres needed!)
o Year to year
New Acreage Owners Often:
• Don’t realize they have over-stocked until excessive
damage has occurred
Overgrazed Properties: Why do we care?
•Less grass=more runoff=more mud
•Invasion of weedy species
•Erosion, weed infestation and
manure runoff affect other
properties downstream and
•Less snow/moisture is retained
• Potential lower property value
(neighboring properties also)
Prevention of Over-stocking is
KEY..and cheaper in the long run!
• Informed Real Estate Agents = Informed new
Acreage owners
• Upfront knowledge of year-round costs of horse
– Hay purchases (especially during drought years)
– Fencing
– Weed Control
• Team effort by us:
 Real Estate Agents
 SDSU Extension, NRCS, County Weed & Pest,
Conservation Districts + more
Review: Growing / Grazing Season
• Usually May-September in SD
Cool (May-June, Sept.)
Warm (July-August)
What About After Grazing Season?
• Horses/livestock should be removed from pastures once ½
of total annual forage production is removed …
How can you accurately estimate annual
What About After Grazing Season?
• … and placed in a Sacrifice Paddock
 Paddocks are prone to mud and weeds, so think about
location/drainage before building
 6+ months on average (Nov-April)
How Much Hay Do they Need?
• Depends on hay quality and horse’s activity level
• Hay Quality:
– Protein/Energy, etc.
• Activity Level:
– Leisure
– Performing/Lactating
How Much Hay Do they Need?
• Usually 2-2.5 % body weight per day (dry
• 1000# horse will consume ~25# of hay per
day (DM)
• MONITOR horses for rib fat
o should be able to see last 1-2 ribs
What is Hay Going to Cost?
• Depends on many factors:
Size/type of bale
Unit cost (per bale or per ton)
Where purchased
Bale Size
• Small squares vary locally; 2012
– $3 to $8/bale ($100-$250/ton)
– $11-$16 in Texas (>$500/ton)
• Large Rounds=$60-120/ton
– Delivery is usually required (~30/Ton
– Need a tractor to handle
Small Square Bales
1 adult Quarter Horse consumes about 900# of
hay per month (45% of a ton):
o 900#/50 # square bale = 18 bales/month
 $54 /horse/month @ $3/bale
 $144 /horse/month @ $8/bale
 $600/horse on average / 6 months
 $1200/horse/year
Large Rounds
• Round bales are currently $60 - $120/ton (does not include
o Alfalfa costs more than grass
o Horse eats about ½ a ton per month
 $30-60/horse per month
 $270/horse/6 months
 $540/horse/year
Where to Purchase Hay
• Neighbors/ranchers
• Feed Cooperatives (highest prices)
• Check newspapers
Reduce Hay Costs By:
• Purchase hay in large volumes for discounts
• Maximizing forage production
– Acreage owners should not begin grazing until most grasses
have 3-4 leaves in the spring
– Rotational Grazing
• Makes horses graze less desirables
• Extending Grazing Season
 Take Half, Leave Half
 Graze 50-75% of time if possible
 horses will eat and trample out of boredom
Considerations When Purchasing Hay:
• Quality of Hay for horses ( important
 Most horses get by on quality grass hay
 mold
 blister beetles (lethal)
• Refer to SDSU Extension
Considerations When Purchasing Hay:
• Small acreage owners:
– Equipment to handle hay
– Time
– Waste (more with round bales)
– Financial
Quiz Time!
Question :
• You are listing a 5 acre property in the Black Hills. A
couple with 2 adult quarter horses asks you how long it
“will last their horses”. The suggested stocking rate for
the area is 3 acres/AUM (.33 AUM’S/ac). What do you
tell them ?
 1 horse = 1.25 AUM’s; 2 quarter horses= 2.5 AUM’s
 2.5 AUM’s * 3 acres/AUM=7.5 acres needed/month
 5 acres available ÷ 7.5 needed = .67 month (almost 3 weeks)
 1.5 months if graze 50% of the time
 Will need to feed hay the rest of the year (approx. 10-11 months)
Take Home Pointers
• Acreage owners need to understand their pasture
limitations & plan for hay expenses
• Maximize existing pasture to minimize hay purchases
o Sacrifice pen, rotational grazing
• Purchase hay in large quantities if possible
• Work with neighbors

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