July 17, 2013
Hay for horse feed may become increasingly scarce through the rest of winter, according to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI).
DEPI’s Naomi Friede, who works with the Department’s Bureau of Animal Welfare, said horse owners should be thinking ahead now.
“Some feed providers are already rationing their hay sales and owners need to calculate the quantity and cost of the feed needed until spring,” Ms Friede said.
“Planning should take into account that a horse requires at least 1.5 per cent of its bodyweight in fibre from sources such as hay or pasture each day, which means a 500 kg horse needs 7.5 kilograms of hay.”
Ms Friede said the hay used must be suitable for horses and that new owners should not be lulled into a false sense of security when winter rains lead to paddocks tinged with green shoots.
“Owners must be aware of what has been termed ‘the green drought illusion’ where new, green pastures may not in fact contain enough feed and nutrition to meet horses’ needs and supplementary feed may still be required,” she said.
“The important message here is that owners should be realistic about their situation and, if they can’t afford to buy sufficient hay for their horses, they need to be considering their options now.
“They may need to consider agistment, sale, rehousing and, if their horse becomes unwell, seeking veterinary advice — everyone’s aim should be to avoid an outcome where a horse becomes so unwell that euthanasia becomes a possibility, no one wants that.
“When it comes to ensuring your horse stays healthy, hoping for spring is not an option and, if the decision is made to transport a horse, it has to be in good enough condition to take that journey, or ‘fit-to-load’, as it’s termed in the industry.
“An owner has a legal responsibility to ensure their horse does not starve or become distressed at any time, including during cold winter conditions when feed is scarce.
“Some ideas that have worked well in the past include ordering hay in bulk, from outside your region if necessary — it may turn out to be cheaper too. Owners can also consider sharing the purchase and storage of hay with a neighbour or pony club member.”
DEPI’s website includes a Horses and Winter page providing more information about caring for horses through winter.