No question about it, 2012 is proving to be a record-breaker where heat and drought are concerned. You’ll want to make some adjustments due to the weather to take care of your horses this summer. It’s very important to also consider what you will need to feed them later on this year.
Horse owners rely on pasture to meet a significant portion of their horses’ daily nutrient needs. With dry conditions across Kentucky, you may be facing the need to feed hay sooner than you normally do and supplies are going to be tight this year.
So, how much hay do you need per horse?
In many cases, using an estimate of 2 percent of the horse’s body weight per day is where you should start. For example, a 1,200-pound horse will need about 24 pounds of hay per day.
In a more normal year, an inventory of hay for 150 to 180 days would be a reasonable amount; however, with limited pasture available this year and uncertainty about availability this fall, planning ahead can keep you from running short on feed.
Plan ahead and consider that you may need to feed for more days. If you are feeding 24 pounds per day, that means you will feed more than one-third of a ton per month. If you add in some waste, which will happen 10 percent of the time, you are up to four-tenths of a ton per horse per month.
Think of ways you can reduce waste or keep it at 10 percent by using a suitable hay feeder. Many owners feed hay on the ground and that can result in a loss of more than 50 percent.
With hay becoming so costly and possibly in short supply, making good use of what you’ve got makes good sense.
Start planning for winter feeding supplies now as you consider when you are going to have to start feeding hay for your horses because there may not be pasture available. For some, that time of no pasture is right now. Make sure you have enough hay for your horses. Finding it now will be much easier than finding it later.
For more information about feeding your horses, contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service at (859) 236-4484.
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.