Assess Horse Nutrition, Manage Pastures to Save Money

Want to keep your passion for horses alive but worried about how to pay for it? The University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources recommends the following to reduce the nutrition costs associated with your horses:

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Do a thorough nutritional evaluation of each horse. Many horses these days are being supplemented with many more nutrients than they actually need. Ask your vet and local extension educator, or your state's extension horse specialist, for input on your horse's diet and supplements.

If your horse is fat, odds are he's getting too many calories. You might be able to cut out that commercial grain or supplement altogether--or find one that better suits your horses' needs such as a forage balancer. Forage balancers are designed for the horse that is on an all-forage (hay or pasture) diet. They tend to be very high in vitamins, minerals, and sometimes protein, but are fed in small amounts--usually not more than 2 pounds per day. The cost per bag might bring sticker shock, but when you look at it as a cost per meal, you might find you'll save money!

Increase your management inputs into your pastures. Horses are designed to eat small meals on a frequent basis. Properly-managed pasture could meet almost all of your horse's dietary needs. The initial outlay in money to renovate a poor pasture may be expensive, but once you get the management in full swing and can keep up with mowing, fertilizing, and rotating the animals, you'll find that you need to buy very little hay.

In Maryland, horse owners might need as much as 2 acres per horse in order to feed them throughout the year, but can get by on less if they put more management into it such as pasture rotation and strict use of sacrifice lots during poor pasture growth periods. For help on pasture management, contact your local Extension office.

For pasture management, you may qualify for federal or state grants to implement best management practices. With some new grant programs available through the Maryland Department of Agriculture's Tributary Strategies office, there is even some potential help for small acreage owners in central and southern Maryland who wouldn't otherwise qualify for funds from EQIP and other federal programs. For more information on cost-share programs, contact your local Soil Conservation District.

Read more suggestions for saving money on the farm.  

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