Spring is officially here in Western Colorado, which is great for two reasons: grass is sprouting, and hay is finally starting to go down in price. With that being said anytime between now and first hay cutting is a great time to find some hay deals. Horse owners will need to anticipate hay prices continuing to be high as many areas in the west are already restricting water due to the drought. Buy your hay early this year during first cutting. In the event that producers are unable to get a second cutting this season or in the event of drought in the south and to the east of us in the Midwest hay prices will only go up.
My favorite time of the year to buy my hay is typically August. Waiting until August this year could be risky if droughts continue. The supply may not be available and the cost may rise higher than it already is. I plan to ramp up my fodder production this year, but more than likely will continue to offer hay to the horses to allow them something to chew on throughout the day. Currently I am feeding 75% fodder and 25% hay, more than likely after I buy hay this year I will go to 50% hay and 50% oat grain fodder. Cost wise it will cost more with the increased hay, but for maintaining the herd health and preventing cribbing I feel it will be a great balance for my horses.
As the grass is coming in remember to gradually allow access to pastures starting with a few hours per day allowing horses to graze freely and only allow horses out onto pastures during the late evening hours into the early morning hours of the day. This best management practice will reduce the likely hood of horses falling victim to grass founder.
With much of the region in drought, remember noxious weed mitigation is crucial right now to your pastures health. Noxious weeds often times spread the fastest in overgrazed, dry pastures. Rotate pastures frequently, keep up on your noxious weed mitigation, and be mindful of how many weeds are in your hay supply. If you cannot rotate pastures, fence off a pen, and feed your horses hay, or forage alternatives such as complete feed, grain fodder, hay pellets, or beet pulp. Keeping horses off a small pasture will save you more money in the end, than the increased feed bill that you initially incur. Preventing noxious weed problems in the first place is always the cheapest form of noxious weed mitigation. Allowing weeds to propagate can not only decrease the amount of forage your pasture can supply your horses, it can also affect your herds health due to ingestion of poisonous noxious weeds, and can get incredibly costly getting the problem under control, then re-seeding pasture areas.
Remember pest control for your horses such as fly spray, fly mask, and sunscreen for our fair-skinned equine friends. Break out the curry brushes, get outside, and enjoy the spring season!