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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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Two apps provide quick answers to two important management questions

Want to know the price per ton for hay or body weight of a horse?  The University of Minnesota Equine Department makes available two apps for both the iPhone and iPad that provide quick answers to these questions.

The hay price calculator is simple to use.  You select bale type (small square, large square or large round), enter price per bale and the actual price per ton pops up.  Most experts urge stable owners to buy hay on price per ton rather than bale price because that is best way to measure the actual price you are paying.

There is a charge to your iTunes account of 99-cents for the download.  Goto:

Knowing the body weight of a horse is important for watching overall health and feeding as well as the administration of medication.  The Healthy Horse App lets stable operators estimate body weight for any type of horse by entering the height of the horse, body length, and neck and girth circumference. Ideal body weight and body weight scores will be calculated for Arabians, ponies and stock horses from newly developed University of Minnesota research.  This app gives an estimate of body weight and should not replace examination by qualified professionals.

The Healthy Horse apps retails for $1.99 through iTunes and can be found at


New customer coming for Southeastern U.S. hay

Equine stable owners and managers in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia can expect to face new competition when buying hay for their horses.  ACX Pacific Northwest Inc., the largest U.S. forage exporter, is opening a new export facility in Goldsboro, NC later this month.

According to Nicholas Gombos, company vice president, the Goldsboro facility will in the beginning buy hay in eastern North Carolina, but as export demand increases, hay will be purchased throughout North Carolina as well as Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.  No information was immediately available on the number of tons the company expects to buy in this area, but ACX exported about 700,000 tons of hay in 2012 from its facilities in Wilmington and Stockton, CA and Ellensburg, WA.  Assuming an average yield of 2.5 tons per acre, it would take 280,000 acres of hay for that tonnage.

Plans call for exporting Bermuda grass, oat and ryegrass hay to Middle Eastern countries.  Beyond that ACX expects be shipping hay from Goldsboro to Asia.  End users of the hay will include dairy and beef cattle, camels, goats, horses and sheep.  The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that 3.7 million tons of hay was exported in in 2012.  Using a 2.5 ton-per-acre average yield, that represents the production from 1,480,000 hay acres.

ACX Pacific Northwest is headquartered in Bakersfield, CA.


Tips to help estimate dry matter intake for grazing horses

Knowing how much dry matter your horses are actually getting from grazing each day is important whether pastures are in peak condition, as they are now, or not so great as they often are later in the summer.  Stable operators can’t measure intake the way you can with hay or other feedstuffs, but there are tools that can help. 


One of these tools is from equine grazing research performed at North Carolina State University by Paul Siciliano and others.  The study provides stable operators with information to help estimate how much dry matter and other nutrients horses actually get from grazing.  It also reveals how nutrient intake can vary from horse to horse based on time spent grazing, body condition and other factors. 


As a base, the NCSU study estimated pasture nutrient intake for a horse grazing over a 24-hour period at 1.5 to 3% of body weight in Dry Matter per day.  For a 1,200 lb. horse, that would be from 18 to 24 lbs.  Since most horses don’t graze continuously for 24 hours, these numbers represent a factor to compare against.  This assumes good grazing conditions.


The study shows that horses get most nutrients from pasture in the first few hours of gazing.  Intake per hour drops off after about four hours.  According to NCSU, horses get 55% of their daily required calories in the first four hours of grazing.  Horses turned out on pasture for three, six, nine and 24 hours a day showed dry matter intake of 1.96, 1.52, 1.12 and 0.57 grams of Dry Matter per kilogram of body weight per hour.


In other words, horses take in most of the nutrients they are going to take in during the first few hours of grazing.  Additional hours on pasture are less productive from a nutritional stand point.


Other factors that can cause variation in nutrient intake include grass height, forage maturity, forage type and the physiological state of the horse (e.g., maintenance, lactating, other). Optimum grass height is 6-to-8 inches.


Stable operators may want to restrict pasture time for horses that are fat or over conditioned.  Conversely, heavily worked horses may need more grazing time. 


You can check out equine grazing research by Siciliano and others at NCSU by going to:


Shop for hay online

Valley Video, Torrington, WY, provides online hay auctions throughout the winter and early spring months. Launched in 2005, Valley Video typically auctions from 3,000 to 8,000 tons of hay per Auction. Barry McRea runs the Online Auctions which are held at the Torrington Livestock Auction Market, Torrington, WY.

Live bidding is taken online and over the phone. Bidding information is also available on the website. Hay offerings in include high quality horse hay. McRea says hay sold at the auctions is shipped to many different states, including Kansas, Ohio, Minnesota, etc.


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