Without question, 2012 has been a tough year for agriculture, whether it's been droughts, fires or floods.? And that means, in many areas, hay prices will begin to rise quickly, especially as hay becomes less available.
If you're squeezed by prices and/or availability of top-quality hay, don't despair. You can get through it.
Whatever you do, don't just add a lot more grain to your horse's diet. Grain is meant to be fed to a horse who can't hold his weight on hay alone. Over-feeding grain is risky in itself, but it's even worse without appropriate hay intake. Your horse may become ill from colic, ulcers, diarrhea or other digestive upsets. he'll also likely develop vices like cribbing and/or wood chewing.
We've listed our favorite hay alternatives in our chart How To Feed Hay Alternatives, and We've given you ideas on how to calculate the substitution. The closest choice to traditional hay is probably bagged, chopped hay, but it's pricey.
We suggest that you try to combine these ideas with traditional hay. In other words, use them to stretch out your hay supply.
Internet Listings to check for hay products, includes:? www.lucernefarms.com; www.haybarn.com; www.cattletoday.net; www.hayexchange.com.? These sites list dealers and people looking to buy hay. They can be a great source, especially if several horse owners in one area band together to purchase a tractor-trailer load and split it.
Talk to your local county extension agent (you're paying for his/her services, so you may as well use them!). They may know who has hay or know who to contact statewide.? Check bulletin boards at feed/tack stores for both people selling and looking for hay.
?Using Old Hay
Just because hay was taken in last year, doesn't mean you can't feed it. You just need to be aware of a few things:
- don't feed hay contaminated with bird, rodent droppings, etc.
- Avoid bales with possible old mouse nests (a small round depression).
- Never feed moldy hay or hay that doesn't easily break apart into flakes. Avoid anything with gray, black or other dark areas.
- If the hay is dusty but not moldy (you must be able to tell the difference!), you can shake it out really well into a pile or wet it down to feed it. Wet only what the horse will eat now, as hay molds quickly.
- The older the hay is, the worse its vitamin-mineral profile will be. A temporary fix is to feed Triple Crown 30 (www.triplecrownfeed.com 800-451-9916) or Calf Manna (www.mannapro.com 800-690-9908) or a similar product. These are ?vitamin-mineral-protein? pelleted supplements.? Triple Crown 30 (or 12) is made specifically for horses.
Article by Contributing Farrier Editor Lee Foley.