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Hay Price Outlook

The current outlook for horse hay supplies and prices in 2014 is more optimistic than last years due to: increasing hay acres in production and good spring rains in many areas, which should boost production.  As always, local growing conditions will have a big impact on what you will have to pay for hay.  It is always best to estimate your total annual hay needs early and contract to fill your needs during the production season.

Expert Advice

John CohanJohn Cohan

Attorney at Law 

Recent Expert Advice
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Strategies to slow horse feed intake

Some horses eat like pigs and that can cause health problems, according to Krishona Martinson of the University of Minnesota Equine Center.  She notes extended forage time has been linked to health improvements and well-being, including reductions in unwanted behaviors, ulcers, choking, and insulin and glucose responses after feeding.

Martinson listed a variety of things stable owners and managers can do to slow feed intake by changing how feed is delivered to horses.

  • Slow-feed hay nets.  University of Minnesota researchers evaluated different hay nets to measure effect on horse hay intake rates.  Horses were fed hay at 1% of body weight twice daily off the boxstall floor, and from three different hay nets with large, medium and small openings. 
    The floor feeding and the large-opening nets resulted horses consuming the hay in slightly over 3 hours per feeding.  Consumption time per feeding for medium nets was about 5 hours, and 6.5 hours for nets with small openings.  The longer feeding times are similar to natural grazing times for horses.
  • Grazing muzzles.  The researchers also found that grazing muzzles can help slow horse intake from pasture and grain.  University of Illinois researchers found that these muzzles reduce feed intake by about 30%.
  • Specialized grain feeders.  Texas A&M researchers tested a new feed bucket (Pre-Vent Feeder) and determined it slowed grain consumption and reduced spillage.  Horses pent 21-60 additional minutes eating grain from the feeder compared to a tub or bucket.
  • Obstacles. North Carolina researchers tested grain feeding using a bucket with 4 movable bocce-style balls (4” diameter).  These extended grain feeding time by 4 minutes daily.  The found using the balls produced the lowest glucose and insulin responses compared to other feeding methods tested.
  • Forage quality.  Horse hay feeding time increases as the percentage of NDF (Neutral Detergent Fiber) goes up.  NDF percentages of 65% tend to result in a reduction in hay intake.  Some people call this “busy hay.”  NDF percentages of 40-50% are considered ideal for horses and promote hay intake.  Experts recommend only a small portion of the horse’s hay diet be comprised of “busy hay” high in NDF.
  • Feeding order.  Many experts believe feeding hay before grain slows feed intake.

All of these strategies offer stable owners options to optimize feeding time and achieve health benefits.  None of these are costly to implement.

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