November 2016 | Estimating Winter Hay Needs - Brought to you by Nutrena
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Estimating Winter Hay Needs - Brought to you by Nutrena

November 2016

Question: We recently purchased a farm and will be housing our two quarter horses over the winter. They are trail horses who are not ridden during the winter. Because I’ve always boarded my horses, I’m not sure how to estimate how much hay I will need for the winter. Can you provide some guidelines?

Response: An adult horse at maintenance will consume between 2 – 2.5% of their bodyweight in feed (hay and grain) each day. For example, a 1,000 pound horse fed a 100% hay diet would consume 25 pounds of hay each day.

  • From October 15 to May 15 (when there is no pasture), the horse would consume about 5,350 pounds of hay or 2.7 tons.
  • This would equal 107 fifty pound small square-bales or six 900 pound round-bales during this time.
  • For two horses, this amount would be doubled.
  • It is critical to know the weight of the hay bales; not all bales weigh the same. If the same horse was receiving 5 pounds of grain each day, their hay needs would be reduced to 20 pounds each day.
  • From October 15 to May 15 the horse would consume about 4,280 pounds of hay or 2.1 tons.
  • This would equal 86 fifty pound small square-bales or five 900 pound round-bales during this time.
  • For two horses, this amount would be doubled.
  • These estimates assume good quality hay is fed in a feeder to reduce hay waste

It’s best to purchase some extra hay since horses may require additional hay during the cold winter months (depending on their access to shelter).

Author: Krishona Martinson, PhD, Univ. of Minnesota. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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