Feed Choices Can Mean Cost Savings for Horse Owners

Few horse owners have remained unchallenged by the intractable recession. Rising fuel and feed costs have pushed horse ownership expenses skyward. And with no end in sight, it's no wonder that horse owners are looking for ways to trim their routine horse-keeping expenses without sacrificing the quality of their animal's care. Bob Coleman, PhD PAS, associate professor in equine extension for the University of Kentucky Department Of Animal Sciences, believes feed and feeding techniques are good places to start.

Coleman said hay is a staple of most equines' diets. But generally, owners pay for more hay than their horses actually consume. As a result, most owners can realize savings simply by paying attention to the way they dispense hay to their horses, Coleman said.

“In many cases, horses are fed hay on the ground, which can result in losses of up to 50 percent,” Coleman said. “If you need to feed 2 pounds of hay, so the horse can consume 1 pound, that makes the hay very, very expensive.”

Instead, owners can conserve both cash and hay resources by purchasing a feeder suitable to their horses' needs.

“It's money well spent,” Coleman said.

At the same time, Coleman advises owners to rethink the way they purchase hay to feed their horses. Most owners purchase hay by the bale. But bale weight can fluctuate, and when the weight of the bale changes, so does the cost of feeding the horse, he said.

“For example, $5 per bale hay may be a good buy if the bale weighs 70 pounds,” Coleman said. “But it may not be as good a buy at 50 pounds.”

Owners might also realize horse-keeping savings by reconsidering what besides hay they feed their horses, Coleman said. Many owners feed their horse a concentrate ration daily. But most owners fail to determine what the ration contains and whether their horses actually require what the ration provides, he said.

Instead, Coleman recommends that rather than simply providing feed, owners select and dispense feed that meets the individual horse's nutritional needs.

“Also, look at what you're feeding by reading the labels of what you are using,” he said. "There is no need for duplication."

Owners can also reduce costs by only feeding what each individual horse requires nutritionally every day.

“If the concentrate feed you are using and the forage you are providing meet the nutrient needs of your horse, there is no benefit to feed extra,” Coleman said.

Finally, he advised owners do their homework to realize the greatest horse-keeping savings without sacrificing horse care. “Horse owners need to determine how much the feed costs, and how much it costs to feed their horses per day,” he said.

Beyond that, cost-trimming must take place on an individual basis, Coleman said.

Pat Raia is a professional journalist who covers horse industry and equestrian topics.


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