With weather issues and water shortages taking their toll on the nation’s hay supply, many farmers and horse owners are starting to worry about finding hay supplies large enough to feed their stock this year.  It’s been a rough few years, actually, with growers unable to produce the quality hay crop that’s typically in high demand.  Many harvesters who used to enjoy three cuttings per year are down to a single first cutting.

hay shortages

Drought is a serious issue for hay suppliers. Keep up with concerns with this US Drought Monitor.

These sparse harvests have put a strain on the horse and cattle industry, as well as many who depend on hay to feed their farm.  Prices are skyrocketing and buyers are having to turn to lower quality forage, giving up the hard-to-find organics and premium cuts.  Horses are more sensitive to feed and hay changes than cows and other livestock are, requiring consistent brands / types of grain and clean, mold-free hay.

So what can be done to plan ahead for hay shortages like we’re currently experiencing? With a little planning, farmers and horse owners can stay ahead of their demand, delivering consistent quality hay to their horses while saving money!

These five tips are Saratoga Stall‘s recommendations to help you prep against future hay shortages.

  1. Befriend a Hay Supplier – Forming a quality relationship with a local hay master may keep you first in line when supplies run low. Trading goods and services or being the first to offer them a helping hand is a great way to give back to your community, form a fast friendship, and be treated to quality fodder when the time comes.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated so smiles and compliments go great with the homemade cookies you should take them when you pick-up your hay!
  2. Hay Harvest Agreements – There is no better way to secure your hay supply than by entering into a large quantity hay contract with a trusted hay supplier. Don’t know where to look for one?  Word-of-mouth is usually the best way to find quality local hay providers.  Not only will this type of agreement save you money, you’ll also get top-quality hay from a local, trusted source.  Don’t let your supply runs low or you’ll be looking for hay in the winter months and may possibly end-up feeding low-nutrient fodder.  Hay that’s contaminated or has noxious weeds can have short and long-term health consequences for your horses so plan ahead for hay shortages now with a hay harvest agreement.  Buy more hay than you expect to use to stay on the safe side.  This will also allow you to help friends or sale for a profit when prices skyrocket.
  3. Build a Hay Barn – A hay barn is a farm essential that many put off or overlook because of the expense. The truth is, however, that a permanent hay barn will save you a ton of money in the long run.  They allow you to buy hay in bulk, which saves money, and store it safely away from weather and horses, which also saves money.  According to the University of Kentucky’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, large 6ft round bales stored outside have a deterioration rate of 25% – 35% per bale, with the smaller 4ft bales having up to a 44% loss.  Compared to the 4% – 7% loss in bales stored inside, you can see the savings grow considerably.  Storing your hay supply in a permanent hay barn that is dry and properly ventilated means you’ll avoid deterioration loss from moisture, mold, and other weather damage.
    Hay Deterioration
  4. Educate Yourself – Educating yourself on proper storage techniques will go a long way in preserving hay nutrients and preventing mold, contamination and other hay storage problems. Proper drainage, bale spacing and ventilation are just small parts of what needs to be done to ensure quality storage.  Also, keeping up-to-date with current prices and supplier reputation will help avoid losing money on bad deals.
  5. Buy or Build Slow Feeder Hay Nets – Sometimes, simple solutions will make big strides in your conservation efforts. Slow feeder hay nets are inexpensive  and a great way to plan ahead for hay shortages as they cut down on hay waste.  You can buy them from your local supply store or design and build them yourself. They come in many shapes and sizes and can handle large round bales or small stall portions of hay.

These five tips should help you plan ahead for hay shortages.  Do not wait until your hay supplies are almost depleted.  Plan ahead and buy more than needed to keep your options open during hay shortages.  By doing so, you can provide consistent, quality fodder to your horses and save money.

Do you have any hay shortage horror or success stories to share?  We’d love to hear them in the comments below!


Saratoga Stalls is a premium national supplier of horse and barn products. For more information on custom barns or horse stalls please contact Curtis Gardner, CEO, at (800) 918-6765.