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Feed Alternatives - Hay, Pasture, Fodder Solutions?

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  • Feed Alternatives - Hay, Pasture, Fodder Solutions?

    We are buying approximately 10 acres in No. Cal with a small "fixer upper" on it which will be suitable for housing a caretaker. We plan to develop this property as a private dressage training facility for a minimum of 5, maximum of 10 horses.

    The cost of hay purchased from our local retailer is currently fluctuating around $20/3-wire bale. In the past, we have not had enough acreage/horse to provide both 24/7 turnout AND sustainable pasture. With the purchase of this additional acreage, we hope to continue with 24/7 turnout for some of the horses, and reduce our overall feed costs. For example, what if instead of continuing to purchase baled hay from our local retail supplier, we:
    1. built a larger hay storage facility and bought hay direct from the wholesaler (presumably at lower cost); or
    2. cross fenced, irrigated, planted and managed pasture to feed some of the horses, supplemented with baled hay from the local supplier, as needed for the additional horses;
    3. implemented the "Fodder Solutions" system using sprouted barley to supply the nutritional component and non-irrigated pasture and/or less expensive baled hay to provide the roughage component for feeding all the horses.

    Obviously each of these alternatives has a different up front capital cost and associated long term operating costs. We would like to determine which alternative is most cost effective over a 10-15 year life cycle. We will assume 2 acres of pasture will support 1 horse without supplemental feeding. Anyone have any experience that might help us begin to fill in the other blanks? The type of information we are looking for includes:
    • which wholesalers supply good quality grass (various types), or alfalfa/grass hay to the Sacramento area;
    • cost/bale for purchase and delivery from wholesaler/grower to Sacramento area;
    • cost/sq ft for construction of hay storage facilities,
    • cost/linear foot for cross fencing,
    • cost/acre for automated sprinkler irrigation system (assuming main lines to pasture boundary, pumps, filters, etc are already in place);
    • equipment needed, and cost of equipment to properly manage irrigated pasture (seed, fertilize, mow, etc.);
    • cost/acre/year for materials (not including water) to maintain irrigated pasture (seed, fertilizer, lime, etc.);

    Need help here, please
    WildSwan Hanoverians

  • #2

    Sounds like addressing the health your pasture grazing might be a place to start. Over grazing is an issue that damages soil fertility. There are products, not fertilizers, that address the health of the earth and improve the soil long term. Many are microbial based, liquids you just spray on the pasture and us cheap, harmless to animals and humans.I hope this is helpful. Putting back in the ground what the horses take out is important for longevity.


    • #3
      I think you are asking questions beyond the scope of this board, given that the answers are going to be hugely dependent on your region. The NorCal I grew up in had a much different climate than another area within three hours' drive and also presumed to be NorCal.

      I'd start first with your county Ag Extension agent to determine whether ten acres really will be able to produce enough grasses to either hay or have as irrigated pasturage. They'll be able to tell you if there is water available for ag use in the county, and how to qualify, which may make a substantial difference in cost per acre foot, or whether you'll need to depend on your own well and therefore have to put one in. Obviously cost and availability of water will determine a lot.

      It is possible to sometimes either purchase a double trailer load of hay from the hay grower if you are able to locate one, or work with your retailer to act as your broker in exchange for a lower than retail price. In either case you'll have to pay up front and unload and stage the hay yourself. Many years ago an employee of my father's moved down from Oregon and brought a double load of nice alfalfa mix hay, purchased there, which they stored under a tarp on the business property in the Bay Area. They did have some spoilage.

      There are ag contractors that work in the Central Valley and will custom farm your acreage for a fee. They have the tractors, implements, workers and insurances/permits such as insecticide applicator's licenses but they tend to have areas of expertise such as rice or almonds or your ten acres may not be considered large enough.

      Start with the Ag extension agent. They may be able to put you in touch with specialty contractors for the fences and outbuildings. Or there are architects specializing in horse farms that can put together a site plan including area-appropriate structures, fencing etc. They won't be cheap.

      ETA, Hasting's Island Land Company is an alfalfa producer in Rio Vista. They have excellent quality hay but I'm afraid it's all baled for cattle and you'll need a squeeze to handle it. But, I may be wrong and they may have small bales available as well - just you'll need to purchase several hundred bales at a time.
      Last edited by ReSomething; Jul. 12, 2012, 06:48 PM. Reason: Had a thought. Sac area is huge nowadays.
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