Hay can be one of the most expensive purchases that a farmer needs to make. The tendency that many horses have to waste hay does not help matters. Plenty of horses waste their hay by trampling it into the ground, getting it messy, then refusing to eat it.
Hay waste can seriously eat into a farmer’s budget. While you can’t feed your horses less as they need plenty of hay to survive, there are several methods you can try to get them to waste less hay, including adjusting their feeding environment and checking the quality of their food.
Change the Feeding Location
Sometimes, reducing hay waste is as easy as changing where your horses eat. Often, horses accidentally waste hay as they try to move their feed to a spot they like better. Switching your feeding location to a shadier place or rearranging feeding spots to accommodate social hierarchies among horses can stop them from wasting hay.
Another common way that horses waste hay is by throwing their hay into their water. Moving your horse’s source of hay away from its water bucket can prevent this.
However, your horse could be dunking its hay for a reason that goes beyond just silly antics. Some horses prefer wet hay, particularly if they have trouble chewing or get irritated by dust. Wetting the hay before feeding your horse will stop them from creating a mess during feeding time while adjusting to their feeding preferences.
Rearranging your feeding setup is the simplest and most affordable way to reduce hay wasting among your horses. Observe your horses to figure out why they may be trampling hay, and maybe adjusting the location will be enough.
Change the Feeding Method
Many farmers just feed their horses hay by tossing hay flakes into the yard, directly on the ground. This is the easiest way to feed your horses, but it leads to a lot of hay waste because horses can easily trample it into the ground. Particularly if you use the same feeding spot over time, it will become trampled and muddy, contaminating the hay and making horses more likely to leave flakes behind.
Putting hay in a feeding container, such as a tub, limits the amount of hay waste because horses have less opportunity to fling their food around instead of eating it. If you feed your horses outside, such as in a pasture, a round bale feeder with a shelter can help prevent hay from getting dirty. Another option is a hay tub.
When feeding horses indoors, hay racks and hay nets keep hay in one place and out of the dirt. They also help horses slow down their eating habits.
Add a Layer Underneath the Hay
One of the biggest reasons why horses will refuse to finish their hay is if it is dirty (of course, often it is their fault that hay is dirty in the first place). By adding a protective layer between the ground and the hay, you’ll protect much of the hay from contamination and make it more attractive for your horses.
One common barrier between hay and the ground is a rubber stall mat. Rubber stall mats can be used indoors or outdoors in a paddock. By placing hay on the mat, you’ll prevent it from getting muddy. You’ll also reduce cases of sand colic in your herd since most horses get sick by eating hay that’s contaminated by sand and grit.
If you cannot use a stall mat or other barrier underneath your hay, make sure that the surface you are using for feeding is clean. Try moving the feeding spot to a cleaner corner with fresh shavings if you are giving your horse hay in its stall. Whatever you can do to reduce dirt will also reduce hay waste.
Make Sure You’re Feeding Your Horses the Right Hay
Sometimes, your horses are trying to tell you something when they refuse to eat their hay. The hay could be against their tastes or genuinely bad for them.
If you notice that your horses are consistently leaving behind large amounts of hay, the hay could be moldy or stale. It could also be the wrong kind of hay for their wants and needs. Some horses can be notoriously finicky with the hay type they will eat.
Try experimenting with different varieties of hay, such as timothy or Bermuda hay. Or, you may try replacing your loose hay with other formats such as hay pellets or cubes. Some horses prefer pellets, and they tend to cause less waste.
Ensuring Hay Quality
If you’re noticing that there is an issue with hay quality, your first step should be to check with your supplier. You may need to switch to higher/quality hay. Even if the initial cost is more expensive, ultimately you will save more money because there will be less hay waste.
If there is nothing wrong with your hay supplier, perhaps you need to improve your storage methods. To protect your hay from the elements and prevent it from developing mold, you should store it off the ground and in a well-ventilated building. If there are any leaks or cracks, fix them immediately before your hay supply becomes moldy.
Ideally, air should circulate freely among your hay to prevent mold and other problems. One way to promote circulation, especially with square bales, is to stack them properly. Make sure to lay bales on their sides and alternate the direction you stack them in.
Horses can be playful animals and often waste hay by throwing it around and trampling it during feeding time. Other times, hay waste is a sign of a more serious issue, and your horses could be trying to tell you that there is a quality problem in your supply.
By ensuring that your horses are eating the right kind of hay and making minor adjustments in feeding location and methods, you can prevent hay waste. This will help your budget and lead to healthier horses.