October 4th, 2023

Make Hay While the Sun Shines & Store it When it Rains!

As winter approaches, one of the most critical considerations for horse owners is ensuring an adequate supply of hay to keep their equine companions well-fed and healthy throughout the colder months. With the help of our friends over at Montana Farm Life and their hay calculator, we can solve a few of your problems: how much hay to buy, how much room you need, and where to store it!

Assessing Your Horse’s Hay Needs

The first step in determining how much hay you’ll need for the winter is to assess the specific needs of each horse in your care. Several factors come into play when calculating hay requirements:

  1. Horse Size and Weight: Larger horses naturally require more hay than smaller ones. Determine the average weight of your horses and their daily hay consumption.
  2. Activity Level: Horses in heavy work or training will need more calories than those at rest. Adjust your calculations accordingly.
  3. Age: Younger horses, as well as pregnant or nursing mares, have higher nutritional needs.
  4. Forage Quality: The quality of your hay plays a significant role. Higher-quality hay is more nutritious and can reduce the quantity needed.
  5. Weather Conditions: Cold weather increases a horse’s energy requirements as they work to maintain body temperature. Extremely cold climates may necessitate more hay.

Calculating Daily Hay Consumption

To estimate daily hay consumption per horse, a common rule of thumb is that a horse should consume about 1.5% to 2.5% of its body weight in hay daily. Make sure to check out the calculator provided in the link above to help with this!

Estimating Winter Hay Needs

Now that you know the daily hay consumption for each horse, you can estimate your winter hay needs. It’s wise to be prepared for a long season as nobody wants to run out of hay mid-winter!

Here’s a simplified formula: Winter Hay Needs (per horse) = Daily Hay Consumption x Number of Estimated Winter Days

Calculating Total Hay Storage

Once you’ve determined the hay requirements for all your horses, it’s time to calculate your hay storage needs. Consider the following steps:

  1. Determine Available Storage Space: Measure the dimensions of your hay storage area, whether it’s a barn, shed, or other facility. Be sure to account for any other items that will occupy space. If you don’t have hay storage (yet), we can help! Check out our Ranch Collection for integrated storage options in ~420ft³ (6×10), ~560ft³ (8×10), and ~840ft³ (10×12) sizes.
  2. Calculate Hay Density: Different types of hay have varying densities. On average, a standard square bale is approximately 2.5 to 3ft³. Round bales can range from 250 to 1,000 pounds or more, depending on their size.
  3. Do the Math: Divide your total hay needs by the average volume of hay per bale or bale type you plan to use. This will give you the number of bales needed.
  4. Plan for Variability: Always account for potential hay wastage and any unforeseen circumstances like weather damage or increased horse requirements.

Properly estimating hay needs and planning hay storage for winter is crucial to ensure your horses receive the necessary nutrition to stay healthy and warm during the colder months. By assessing individual horse requirements, calculating daily consumption, and determining storage capacity, you can be well-prepared for a successful winter season of horse care. Remember to monitor your hay supply regularly to make adjustments as needed, ensuring the well-being of your equine companions.

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