View Full Version : HAY and small horsekeeping questions

Nov. 24, 2009, 08:48 AM
I've always boarded..so I've never had the scary 'got to get enough hay' or had the issues of storage, etc, etc.

For now, will be boarding for awhile to come...but am slowly planning/building/finalizing a small (!!!) horsekeeping set up. Small pastures already set up, but will require lots of rotation and use of the sacrifice area as the grass area is probably only 2 acres.

The actual 'barn' is a two stall barn, small aisle, so actual hay storage will be elsewhere. There is an existing outbuilding that could be used, but I'm evaluating the space needed and accessibility.

This will be home to no more (!) than one or two regular sized horses and one mini possibly. Three is absolute maximum, and that would only be if one is a mini. Otherwise, just two.

The area is south eastern VA if that is important for the responses.

Can you guys share what YOU would feel comfortable having on hand at full hay 'capacity' of this set up? I mean...what amount of square bales would you feel important to have on hand at one time? Of course, storage is an issue...and how long it would 'last'...(thats another thing I have no idea about...how 'long' are you comfortable storing hay? Is there a rule of thumb there, in its 'shelf life' so to speak?

I know some will prefer to have more stored than others, but I just have no idea of what is the reasonable thing to plan for.
How many times a year should I expect to buy a 'load' of hay?

No alfalfa...just a good quality grass hay.

Also...I am planning to install a 'counter' along the long wall of the aisle way...I would like to find a heavy duty deep 'bin' on wheels that would hold two square bales...I'd like to keep it tucked under the counter, and use this for storing/haying flakes in the stalls, and containing the 'haydroppings'. Anyone know of or use anything like this?

TIA for your insights!!

Nov. 24, 2009, 08:59 AM
I feed free choice and have no grazing. I plan on roughly 1 50-60 lb bale per day per horse, a little less when it's warmer. Somehow I always manage to have horses that can pretty much scarf a bale a day with no waste.

Try and plan so that you have hay to last you through a wet spring if necessary. Hay gets expensive when the first cutting can't be brought in on time.

If you are lucky enough to have storage then fill your barn for the complete year when the cutting that you want comes in. It's a big outlay of cash but in the end can save you considerable money.

Otherwise, you can buy twice per year, in the spring when the new hay comes in and again in the fall to stock up for winter.

Nov. 24, 2009, 09:02 AM
Depends what you want to pay for hay. Naturally, it is cheapest to buy right out of the fields in the summer. But on a 12X12X10 stall you can store around 150 bales.

If you had 2 additional stalls, you could have you entire hay for the year. Stored on a concrete floor with plates, it should store for 1-2 years.

Personally, I get twitchy when there are less than 50 bales around the house. Less than that, always seems to start raining so the hay guy can't come and the local farmer supply has hideous/expensive hay.

Nov. 24, 2009, 09:33 AM
It also depends on your hay supplier. I fill my hay shed because it's no more expensive to do so than to do it piecemeal; but if I didn't have room I could reserve hay with my supplier and have it delivered when I have room. My hay supplier only has a few customers and he really just needs it out of the barn before next hay season.

That's a nice option because you don't have to store it all, but you know it's still waiting for you. Some hay suppliers won't ask you to pay for all that you resreve, although it's a good way to be sure know one buys it accidentally.

At the very least, I'd plan on having a solid week's worth of hay easily available; with another 2 weeks stored elsewhere (garage, outbuilding) whatever....

For just two horses, I'd think you'd want to find a way to store hay for an entire season, though, so you don't have to continually worry about it. Obviously, large boarding barns get shipments all year long but if you can avoid that hassle you'll be happier.

Nov. 24, 2009, 10:36 AM
I keep two horses and one pony at home and use about 350 bales (45-50 lb bales) per year. Some years are more if there are drought conditions in the summer or excessive rain in the spring / fall. Some years a little less if the grass growing conditions are 'just right'. I buy all my hay when the second cutting grass is available and usually get it straight from the field.

I arrived at the number of bales I need by doing a month-by-month tally of what was required, using the estimate of 1.5% of body weight per horse per day as the starting numbers. For the winter months when there is no serious grazing available, they get the full 1.5% or a little more; for the summer months, I cut that in half (at least) since they are out on pasture 12-14 hours per day.

I'm now in my 21st year of keeping horses at home and these numbers have worked well for me. There have only been a few years, when the weather screwed up my grazing patterns, that I either ran short or had to move leftover bales around to make room for the next delivery. When I get it right, I have about 10 bales left when the new load arrives.


Nov. 24, 2009, 11:40 AM
For hay in the barn I use a cart like this:


It holds two bales. set on edge, perfectly, contains all the chaff, and my hay knife slides between the handle and the side just right for storage. I've had the same cart for almost 20 years now, and it works great.

Nov. 24, 2009, 04:40 PM
A general starting point for feed is twice the height in hands in pounds of feed per day. Ex. a 16h horse would need 32 lbs of feed per day. Easy keeper - less, hard keeper or in a lot of work - more. The basis of the diet is hay - you add grain or RB according to work and need. So, basically, you could plan on 20-25 lbs of hay per horse per day. In VA, you probably need to feed some hay in October and some in March. That leaves 4 months of full hay, 2 of partial and some extra for drought or extreme rain/mud in summer. 2 horses x 25 lbs per day = 50 lbs of hay per day x 30 days per month = 1800 lbs per month (approximately - plus a little extra for waste depending on how you feed it). If they are 30 lb bales, you need 60 bales per month. If they are 60 lb bales, you need 30 bales per month. Multiply by 4 full months plus 2 part months plus some spare and you know what you need.

Nov. 24, 2009, 05:40 PM
My small squares weigh about 35-45, and I feed free choice. For my two 1000# horses, that equates to roughly 1 bale per day when there is some grazing, and 1.5 during winter. By September, I generally have 425-ish bales put up and that takes me through July. Thank goodness I planned ahead last year because the season was nearly 6 weeks late this year.

This year I lost about 75 bales I'd put up early due to flooding, and my regular hay supplier didn't have any dust-free hay (due to wet baling) so at the last minute I found a new hay supplier who delivers, and I'm going to be putting up my final 125 bales for the season soon (fingers x'd).

Yes, I go nuts worrying about hay... I worry worry worry, I've seen what people have to pay and tolerate feeding when they run out come March. Not pretty.

My hay is stored in two locations, a run-in shed that is appx 24x14x8' tall and a garage-in-a-box I bought 2 years ago that is 22x12x12' tall.... I splurged the extra $300 for the extra 2' height on my garage because height is your friend, I get 7high stacked in that building, and 8high down the peak in the center. The run-in holds 175 +/- and the garage in a box holds 260 +/-

a woman I used to board with taught me the wisdom of hoarding hay... when we got our hay up for the year, we'd do a little dance together "hay in the barn is money in the bank! hay in the barn is money in the bank!"

I will not be sleeping easy until my final bales are in, then I'll sleep like a baby. :)

Nov. 24, 2009, 06:06 PM
I also have two horses at home on small acreage. Both are full sized geldings whom had no grazing this year (my small grass turnout was not yet established) and I feed hay free choice. I have found my two will go through about 35-40 lbs. of hay per day. Each gelding weighs 1100 lbs. I have tried feeding more, but end up with a ton a waste. I have found by using homemade hay feeders in the paddock and Nibblenets inside, I save a lot!!!! I also feed both geldings beet pulp at each meal which will stretch your hay supply.

The horses came home last December and because my barn was not done in time for hay season, I could only buy 200 bales (lost about 30 due to mold - storage issues). So, by April I had run out. I found a good hay supplier in the area who would bring me 50 bales at a time. Hay was excellent quality but I paid dearly for it. Having 50 on hand was perfect in that situation. I would order when I got down to 10 days worth and it always came before I ran out. This year, I was able to buy an entire years worth... and then some. Bales average 35 lbs. but are fantastic quality. I filled my loft (450) and my extra stall (100) and feel confident I will make it to first cut. Plus I saved a boat load of money buying bulk at cutting.

Definitely find out what your sources are. Some feed stores have fantastic hay and will deliver (that's what I had done). I found doing the hay search was the source of most aggravation, but finally got it worked out!


Nov. 24, 2009, 09:52 PM
For three full size horses I feed 400 bales a year- average weight is 65#. Works out to a bale of hay a day and allows me extra for a cold snap and hauling.

Nov. 24, 2009, 11:49 PM
You'd be amazed at home much hay you can fit in a 12 x 12 space! In your situation, I'd store as much hay at once as possible--at least 2 months at a time. Second the idea of having a hay supplier who can either store your year's supply at their farm or find a way to do so yourself. I hate buying a ton at a time, as the hay tends to change at my hay guy, depending on what he buys/ships in.

Our bales out here tend to be 120lbs. plus (I don't feed the smaller local hay bales as the quality is so poor that it isn't worth the waste created by it).

Control the hay you feed--feeders or hay bags, and you'll save hay and money. I don't feed free choice, as one horse is a piggy hay waster in that situation. I installed corner hay feeders (big, plastic, bolted to wall) and that really helps. Outside, similar situation, under my overhang on the barn, so protected from wind and weather. Little things like that really stretch your hay budget.

Nov. 25, 2009, 12:10 AM
I have 2 TBs and go through just over a 60 lb. bale a day... sometimes less when the grass comes in late spring/early summer, sometimes more if its a really cold winter. I try to have hay or pasture in front of them 24/7/365.

I'll usually get 2 big load of around 250 2x year.

This winter I think I'll be adding in a flake of alfafa or 2 a day along.

The worst years are when they can't get the first cutting in before its too stemmy because of too much rain, and 2nd cutting is poor due to drought.

Nov. 25, 2009, 01:28 AM
We must be really lucky because I've never had any trouble getting hay. Maybe I should knock on wood or something.

We just buy three bales of hay a week.

We have very little storage space; we don't even have a vehicle in which to bring home a lot of hay.

This has always worked for us. I've had my horse at home for 12 years.

Nov. 25, 2009, 03:09 AM
Wow. I feel like I'm living on another planet here in Southern CA. The quality of hay here can be a bit inconsistent (I feed both alfalfa and orchard grass) so I tend to not buy huge amounts of hay at any one time. I have two full-sized horses and two minis here at home. Our bales weight around 100 pounds, by the way.

Generally I buy around 20 bales at a time (3/4 being grass and the remainder alfalfa). I have more room to store hay but I hate ending up with a batch of hay the horses hate. And on those lovely rare occasions when I buy hay the horses love, I quickly get another delivery of as much hay as I can store (somewhere between 50-75 bales).

And this past summer, when I had a nest of rattlesnakes underneath my hay pallets, I was very happy to not have more hay being stored!!!!

Fancy That
Nov. 25, 2009, 03:24 PM
We have 3 horses and 1 Shetland. We only have a 16 x 20 hay shelter that can store about 100 bales. Our bales are HUGE and HEAVY here in CA.

I wish wish wish we had more storage because I found an excellent grower through my local hay dealer and I've had to buy already 3 times this year. I wish I could have bought a years' worth specifically from this field as the quality is excellent and it feeds fantastic (not one blade is EVER left - and this is orchard grass hay)

When you find a great source of hay - you are really going to want to buy "all of it" :)

Nov. 25, 2009, 04:40 PM
I have three horses and feed grass hay year round. I can store about 15 tons, and buy twice a year. My hay man bought new equipment and changed the way he bales his hay, so I will sadly be finding a new supplier when summer comes. He has great hay, but his new machinery does not put out bales that I can handle easily, and it's next to impossible to have someone else feed for me, so I'm left boarding my horses if I go out of town for longer than overnight.

Hay management is the biggest and most problematic part for me having my horses home.

Nov. 26, 2009, 05:15 PM
I have a loft and pay for delivered & stacked.

For 6-7 horses, I go through less than 500 bales a year. A load from my supplier in his box truck is 220 bales unless I specify a bit less. The bales are in the 35-40 lb range.

I have pastures and I do rotate and manage the grass. I do not free-feed hay, which usually seems to be the translation for "let the horse use hay as bedding and trash his stall". Except for when a new horse arrives skinny, then I figure out a way to keep hay in front of them 100% when inside (and not being pulled around in the bedding. Once they've fattened up, they don't get extra.

For the fatties, I might consider building a slow-feeder for inside, except that I've not noticed any detrimental results from them sleeping once they've finished the hay. But for outside, they can pick at bits of grass when they've finished the hay, even in the dead of winter.

I feed for condition. The hardest keepers get less than 4 lbs of grain a day, so it is not like anyone is starving or suffering from a lack of free-feeding aka wasting hay. Currently, I have one obese horse in who has gotten this obese on this diet. Reportedly, she has been a hard keeper in the past at other farms.

I do feed beet pulp about 5 months of the year (colder months).

Nov. 26, 2009, 08:42 PM
I buy a year's supply from 1st & 2nd cutting - if the 1st looks really good I'll buy it all from that lot.
For my 2 boys that was 250 50-55# small squares (orchard grass with some timothy) or approx 6-1/2 tons.

They also had 24/7 access to my pastures which are not the richest source of forage, but kept them happy.
My Rule of Thumb was one bale lasted 1-1/2 days in warm weather when there was grass.
When it got cold and there was no grass I'd toss a flake or two out for them to "graze" on. Then it was roughly 1 bale per day.

I store hay inside my 36X36 barn on pallets across from the 2 stalls & in a corner of the attached indoor.
I can fit about 100-150 bales inside the barn and the whole 250 fits easily in a corner of the indoor.
In 5 years I have rarely lost a bale to mold & I toss anything even "iffy".

My hay guy's price includes delivery & stacking and sometimes his helpers do a less-than-ideal job of stacking the load. :mad:
Well-stacked bales should form a "staircase" you can walk up easily to toss from the top layer.

Like others have said, I rest easier once my barn has a year's supply inside.
My guy also lets me make payments on the whole purchase. Generally I have him PIF within a month to a month & a half.

Nov. 26, 2009, 10:45 PM
One other good reason to have lots of hay, is that you can get the hay analyzed (www.dairyone.com or the horse division equianalytical) so that you can devise a balanced diet for the critters based on the protein and mineral profile of the hay. If you would like to know how to do that analysis, there are some very good horse nutrition courses available online, see www.drkellon.com

Nov. 26, 2009, 11:11 PM
I'd say alot depends on how reliable your hay suppliers are. If the local ones tend to run out in January, you better have at least a few months' hay stored up.

I personally store as much as I have room for. It isn't much, but if nothing else it cuts down on the number of trips I make getting more hay.

I've also switched to roundbales most of the time. You may want to consider this if you've got a bunch of horses, smaller pasture, and have no grass growing in winter.

Nov. 27, 2009, 09:08 AM
I'm very lucky here in the NE. I( now ) feed one 17+ hh CB/TB who is a VERY easy keeper and 3 goats. I have 4-5 acres for summer grazing and amusement in the winter. My hay man is about a mile away and grows his own. It;s good quality timothy/orchard grass and he is fastidious about how he makes hay every year. His bales run between 35-50 lbs and last me 1 1/2- 2 days- depending on the weather. In summer I can feed much less, in winter much more. He "programs me in for approx 400 bales/year. When my little arab was alive I fed about a bale a day and allowed the excess for winter stall-bound days , rain, etc. And it averaged out and I always have enough to get me through til next season. I have a 12x12 stall ( detached) that I use for hay storage and tack/grooming supplies, etc, so I can fit about 80-90 bales . I get that many every few months so I can keep ahead of the weather, especially coming into winter. the good part is, since he has my hay alotted, I know he'll always have some for me. I pay as I pick it up, too. If I do get caught short I can always make a run myself and get 10-20 bales. We do have to pick it up ourselves, but my son comes, we have a flatbed trailer and get it done in not too much time. Bottomm line, if you find a good hay man = keep him. I've been buying hay from mine for 30 years and boarded with him for almost 20.

Nov. 27, 2009, 09:26 AM
I've been feeding mine at home for the last 41 yrs. I do'nt have much hay storage. My hay guy is only two miles from me. I feed a bale and a half a day between the two of them. The donkey doesn't eat much at all , it is mostly the mare. I go get 20 bales at a time, he keeps enough for me to get through the yr, which allows me to use him for storage. It is lovely nice clean green looking nice smelling grass hay. I have a small attached area to their run in where I keep my hay. It has a shingle roof and tarp sides, works great.

I would think you could pack a lot of hay in a stall. Jeez, when we were dairy farming we had a truck(full size pickup) that we brought hay in from the field in. We could put 63 bales on the truck, that included a 5 bale binder row on top. If you can put that many in one pickup, I would think four times that many in one stall.

Nov. 27, 2009, 10:49 AM
I figure 150-175 square bales (50-60#) per year per horse that doesn't have access to much pasture, and about 100 squares, or the equivalent in rounds, for the pasture rats. Most of my critters are in the 1000# range.

Nov. 27, 2009, 05:28 PM
How big are the horses? My barn of 16 horses most being arabs uses about 4 bales a day with two hay feedings. Two are large horses so eat more hay, if there were more large horses they would eat more hay total.

Since my barn uses so much hay the dealer always has some saved for us. They also deliver and stack.

Can you store it in your garage? Or put up a temporary shelter?

Nov. 27, 2009, 07:52 PM
A trainer I know used one of those "garage in a box" type shelters- a quite big one- for years, until she got her barn built. She stacked her hay on pallets with plenty of air space and thinsg were just fine. She never really filled it to the limit, but it could have held much more than she actually had in it at any one time. It went through many harsh New England winters aith no problems. .