Our friends at the University of Minnesota Extension have created a great guide to questions you should be asking when buying hay. Equine expert Krishona Martinson, PhD, offers some helpful suggestions below:
Q: What questions should I ask when buying horse hay?
A: Here are some questions horse owners should ask when purchasing hay:
- Have you sold to horse owners before or do you specialize in horse hay?
- What is the average weight of the bales? This is very important if buying hay by the bale.
- How mature is the hay? Maturity is the main driver of forage quality.
- What species are present in the hay? Legumes and grasses have different nutrient values.
- Where was the hay harvested? Rule out ditch hay.
- Was the hay rained on? Rained on hay is a good choice for horses with metabolic problems; it tends to be lower in nonstructural carbohydrates.
- Was the hay stored inside or under cover after baling? Hay stored inside or under cover has less storage loss.
- Was the hay field fertilized and/or sprayed for weeds? Show good management and likely a better quality product.
- What are the payment options?
- Is delivery available and if so, what is the cost?
- What is the price? Is there a price break for volume or cash?
- Is assistance available with onsite handling and stacking of hay, and if so, at what cost?
- How much hay do you have/bale each year? Helps ensure a consistent supply of hay.
This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.
I received a phone call from a farm manager, asking who I purchased my hay from. I told him my hay supplier had excellent quality forage with good protein levels and averaged 1Mcal per pound. I gave him the phone number and he said he would call him for pricing.
While at the county fair this week I saw the farm manager and his students at the 4-H barn, so I asked if he had purchased any hay for his farm. He told me that the supplier I had told him to call was too expensive. He had quoted him $220 per ton, with a 5 ton minimum. Since he was not use to buying by the ton, he inquired as to how many bales that was, and was told it would amount to about 165 bales. The farm manager said he had done the math, and that the bales would be over $6.50 each, which was just outrageous!
I saw hay in his feed stall and asked if that was the hay he purchased. He said yes, and was proud to say it was only $5 per bale. He had purchased 200 bales for $1000. I lifted one of the bales and was surprised how light they were, so I asked if he knew what the hay has cost per ton. He had no idea. I then asked if we could wheel four of the bales over to the scale in the cattle barn to weigh them. “ You and your tons,” he replied…”Why not!”
Feeling certain he had gotten the best of a bargain, he loaded the bales and we took them to the scale. They varied from 36 to 40 pounds each, so we said an average of 40 pounds each. I then asked him to do the math.
200 bales x 40 pounds =8000 pounds or 4 tons.
$1000 /4 tons = $250 per ton.
He realized his “bargain” was not such a great value and laughed, “I know, I know…You don’t buy hamburger by the patty, and you don’t by hay by the bale.”