Whether you have your own private horse barn at home, or run a commercial boarding operation, one of your largest bills is probably your hay bill. And with the cold winter temperatures, you’re probably already feeding out extra hay. But are you wasting hay that you don’t need to be? These tips can help you to prevent unnecessary hay waste in your barn.
Use Hay Feeders
To minimize hay waste in your horse’s stall, use feeders. Hay feeders, whether they’re hay racks or hay nets, can help to keep your horse from trampling excess hay into his bedding. They have the additional advantage of slowing down your horse’s hay intake, which will more closely mimic your horse’s natural grazing pattern.
Use Stall Mats in Paddocks as Feeding Stations
When you’re feeding hay in your horse’s paddock, mud and dirt can become an issue in hay waste. As horses eat, the hay may get mixed down into the mud, reducing the amount of hay that the horses will be willing to touch.
Bringing a rubber stall mat out into your paddock can help to fix this issue. You can feed the horses directly off the mat, and can sweep the mat off in between feedings. The mat keeps the hay cleaner, and can even help to reduce your horse’s risk of sand colic, since he’ll ingest less sand and dirt with the hay.
Use Round Bale Feeders
If you feed round bales in a pasture, then using round bale feeders can help to keep the hay contained. Round bale hay nets help to prevent the bales from being spread out all over the ground, so more of the bale stays appealing to your horses, rather than getting covered in dirt.
Because round bales are left out in all weather, protecting them from the rain and the snow can help to preserve their quality. There are a variety of round bale feeders that incorporate covers to shelter the hay from the elements.
Store Hay Properly
You’ll also want to give some thought as to how you’re storing your hay. Improper hay storage can lead to mold, and you may have to throw out large amounts of hay.
Always store your hay up off of the ground, ideally on pallets or some other sort of platform. You’ll want to use a building that offers excellent protection against the wind and the rain, but ideally the building also needs to have great ventilation, especially during the summer.
When you stack hay, alternate the direction of the hay bales. Start by placing the first layer of hay bales on their sides, to promote better air circulation through the stack. For the second layer, stack the bales so that the hay strings are facing up. Continue with this pattern, alternating the direction of the bales to create stacks that are stable and won’t lean.
You’ll want to regularly inspect the roof of any building that you’re using for hay storage. Look for leaks and get them fixed before they become a problem and lead to moldy hay.
Hay can be expensive, so it’s important to make your investment last and minimize hay waste in your barn.