Some people get pizza delivered right to their front doors. Some have gourmet coffee shipped overnight from Amazon. What do we get? About 50,000 pounds of quality grass hay — a little over 500 bales — enough to feed the horses, donkeys, and pigs for about 6 months. All of this hay is from a single cutting, providing a consistent diet for the animals and fewer changes on the feed chart for us.
As far as Piper the Cat is concerned, it’s all about lounging in the wheelbarrow while Jan and Leslie feed the horses.
But for us, it’s a little more complicated than that. The feed store brought the hay last week and stacked it in several places near the barn, on the high ground and away from the drainage channels. This week, we’re transferring it into the hay storage areas in the barn, where it will stay safe and dry if we have summer thunderstorms or an early winter.
We feed our horses by weight, not by flake, to ensure that they are getting the right amount for their size, age, and activity level. Every day, Leslie or Jan weighs the hay for the evening and for the next morning. To ensure that anyone could step in and feed in an emergency, each container of hay gets a stick that identifies its destination. The sticks are wooden paint-stirrers on which we have written the name of the pen and color-coded with yellow for morning feeding or blue for evening feeding. The full containers are stacked up and kept in a locked stall until feeding time.
We monitor each horse’s weight and adjust the hay chart when necessary. A horse that loses weight might get more hay pellets or beet pulp in his morning bucket, or be moved into a herd of easy keepers where he has access to more hay. A horse that gains weight might be moved into a different herd that gets less feed, or he might practice standing tied at the tie rail while the others get a 30-minute head start on the hay. How much hay any given horse gets is one of the factors I consider when I decide which horses to put together.
To learn more about our daily ranch operations, see A Day in the Life: Why Horses Thrive at EPI.