USDA has released several crop reports that indicate the number of hay acres will be down in 2008. It also reports that the existing hay supply is lower than in previous years. This information, combined with higher input costs (fuel, fertilizer, land rent) and higher grain prices (corn, soybean, wheat), will likely lead to increased hay prices.
Through the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2008, the Sauk Center Quality Tested Hay Auction recorded record hay prices. Average hay prices were $100/ton higher in 2007-2008 than they averaged the previous five years.
To prepare for higher prices, horse owners should:
1. Remember that quality forage should be the backbone of your horse’s diet (forage should be a minimum of two-thirds of their nutritional needs).
2. Have a good working relationship with a hay supplier to ensure a consistent and reliable source of hay.
3. Consider adding hay storage space to reduce the effects of price and seasonal fluctuations (i.e. hay is sometimes more expensive in the winter vs. the summer).
4. Buy hay early. Do not wait until late summer or fall to buy hay.
5. Plan in advance. Budget for the price increase and re-evaluate how many horses you can afford to feed.
6. Finally, try to keep your hay type (i.e., grass or alfalfa) consistent. Constantly changing hay types can lead to horse health problems, specifically colic.