First cutting is right around the corner in most parts of the country . . . for most of us this means our barns need to be ready to store our hay in the next few weeks. Here are some tips for better storage:
Here are some tips for better hay storage:
Clean out the storage area. Remove all hay from previous years. If you have a cement floor – sweep the area out. Rake dirt floors and let the area dry/air out for a few days before stacking your new hay.
Prepare the storage area. Always put a barrier between the ground and your hay. Wood skids work best to keep the bottom layer off of the ground while still allowing air circulation under the stack. Allow space in between stacks for air circulation and keep stacks at least six inches away from exterior walls (especially walls that heat up during the hot summer days).
Stack as you feed. Don’t block your hay in . . . .if your feed half first cutting and half second cutting daily make sure you can access both easily.
Separate different cuttings and different kinds of hay. It’s easy to tell first and second cuttings apart when they’re first baled and stacked. When it starts to fade, however, it’s not so easy. Know where you stack each cutting; you can also tie a tag onto the baler twine indicating the cutting or field the hay came off of.
Keep a tally record. It’s easy to forget how much hay you’ve stacked in the barn as the season continues. Write your totals somewhere – either keep a notebook for your farm/stable, or mark it on a barn calendar or note board. This is the only way to know how much hay you have.
This month’s survey
Results from April’s Survey: Do You Give Your Own Vaccinations To Your Horses? 44%-Yes, 44% – No, 12% – Sometimes
Annual Survey – Please participate in this survey. There appears to be an increase in the number of horses having reactions to their vaccines (stocking up, swelling at the injection site, loss of appetite for several days, laminitis, and even death). Good Horsekeeping will be taking the results and presenting them to numerous related equine/veterinarian organizations as a means to have better monitoring and evaluation of recommended vaccine regimen.
Here are the top five ways to keep mud under control:
Keep your pens and pastures picked up – especially during times of transition (when temps are going up and down). Pick of manure and rake up uneaten hay. Sometimes (especially after long periods of snow) you will have to do this daily as manure areas and feeding spots thaw out layer by layer.
Feed your best hay outside and in limited amounts. The less hay horses waste, the less there will be to rake up, or to mix in the ground when the temperature rises, or when it rains. Hay is one of the biggest contributors to deep mud that turns extremely hard when it dries – remember that buildings were once made using mud (made from mixing dirt, water, and straw).
If possible, keep horses inside immediately following a rain. Letting pens dry out a little will lessen the areas that get churned up.
Letting horses eat the bulk of their hay in their stalls and waiting and hour or so before letting them out in pens will reduce the amount of manure in your pens. Horses will pas the majority of their manure within two hours of eating.
Periodically dig out chronically muddy areas and replace the contaminated dirt with new soil – preferably sand. Digging drainage pits is also helpful . . . . locate these in the low areas of your pens and fill with gravel and sand (water will drain from the higher areas of the pen into these and will then drain outward).
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Tack sales are a great way to unload tack and other horse equipment and apparel. Here are some tips to help you get ready for a sale, and to get the most out of the things you are trying to sell:
Clean tack and wash and press clothing, blankets, and other soft goods.
Get your items gathered and organized at least a week before the sale.
Mark sale tags with the size and price of the item. Either purchase tags from an office supply store, or make your own – using small squares of paper. These can be stapled to the clothing tag (located in the collar of a shirt or in the waist band on a pair of pants), or around the browband, cheek piece, etc. of a halter or bridle. Self-adhesive labels should only be used on items where they have a solid surface for adhering to – like on the shank of a bit, or on the cover of a book.
Use rubber bands or string to tie together reins and other strap items like lead ropes and lunge lings.
For large ticket items (like saddles, show halters/bridles, chaps, etc.) make take-away cards for potential buyers that have the item, price, and your phone number on them. These cards can be really helpful at large tack sales – where shoppers may want to look around first, but then forget where your table is at, etc. It also gives them a way to contact you after the sale – should you still have the item and they still want to buy it.
Take at least $20 to make change with (13 singles, one five, and two dollars in quarters).
Use a fanny pack as a moneybox. This way your change and the money you take in are always on you. Have a separate location to keep checks and to put large bills and extra cash once you start to make sales.
Take a variety of bags. Buyers really appreciate having something to carry their purchases in.
Arrive to the sale location early and be ready at least 15 minutes before the start of the sale. There’s nothing worse then trying to set up while people are shopping your table.
Think height when it comes to organizing your table. Take a couple of milk crates (or similar containers) to set on your table. These will give you more display space, and will give buyers somewhere else to look besides your table.
Hang clothing you are trying to sell. It is easier for buyers to look through these things when they are hanging.
Know what your bottom price is before the sale starts. This way you won’t agree to something when caught off guard, or when trying to deal with other customers.
Decide whether or not you will accept checks. If you do check buyers Driver’s License ad make sure a phone number is on the check.
Tack sales can last for several hours so make sure that you have a few snacks – including bottled water with you.
Think twice about holding something for a buyer. Chances are they won’t come back for it and you will lose the sale to someone else. Ask for a deposit (something like $5 or $10). If the potential buyer is serious they’ll give you a deposit – if they’re not and still give you the deposit- they’ll at least come back and tell you they don’t want the item so they can get their deposit back.
It was sad to hear the story on NPR yesterday about hay rustling in several western states including Colorado, California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. I can only imagine that it will get worse as we get farther into the winter. One rancher interviewed in the NPR story said he is now keeping his gates locked to his property and moving hay from storage locations that were near a road. Another rancher was able to re-coup his stolen hay because he put a GPS in one of his round bales.
Even for those of us who have enough hay it’s going to be a hard winter. Although we went into the fall having the bale count, I’m finding that some of our first cutting is really light in bale weight. In addition, because of a slight drought in early March, some of the grass is also brown. My horses – even through I feed them every couple of hours, appear to be hungry all of the time. I suspect the reason is that this year’s hay may not have it’s normal nutritional value. I’ve already upped their grain to help make up for the deficit in the hay, and I am also feeding some second cutting . . . . . earlier then I normally feed it.
We had beautiful weather this weekend – 50s and sunshine, but I know it won’t last. So yesterday I made sure I went through all of my liquids in our tack room and in my grooming bucket. Leaving these things in the barn when temperatures get below freezing can cause the products to freeze and change the effectiveness of their use next year.
I spent about 15 minutes combining fly spays, washing off containers, and storing would product was left in our heated bathroom. I did the same with the shampoos and grooming products. Leather care products usually overwinter OK in the tack room.
In addition, I remove anything that can freeze from my horse trailer – including hoof polish, etc. I also store my show tack indoors for the winter, as well as any other leather tack I’m not using. Keeping leather items in the barn over the winter can be hard on the items – not just because of the weather change, but also because it makes tack vulnerable to mice (which may turn to chewing on leather if they can’t find anything else to eat).
The heavy frost in the morning is a good reminder that winter is around the corner . . .
For me this is the time of year that I try to get my horses ready for winter. I know, for the most part Mother Nature takes care of getting the horses ready for winter by providing them with a heavy coat; still, I have found a few additional things that help my horses get into the swing of winter more easily. Here they are:
Pull your horse’s shoes early enough to give the sole some time to toughen up before the ground freezes. Doing so will help to lessen the degree of soreness that can occur when a horse that’s worn shoes (and pads) all summer, suddenly goes barefoot. Make sure to apply a good hoof dressing several times a week following the removal of shoes; this will help to keep the nail holes from splitting out.
Trim heavy fetlock hair. This will help keep this area dry and will help prevent a case of scratches.
Ensure an adequate water supply. Even if you don’t use tank or pail heaters you can provide water that stays warmer (and will encourage drinking) by adding warm water to your pails. If you don’t have hot water in your barn, carry it from your house when you go to the barn and add it to your pails.
Consider straw for bedding with older, arthritic horses. Straw offers more cushion for horses with joints that get stiff when the temperature drops.
Warm your bit up before bridling your horse. I keep my bridles in our barn bathroom, which stays at about 55 degrees. I also hold the bit in my hand for a few minutes before bridling.
Keep up with your horse’s exercise. It’s easy to stop riding when show season ends. Even if you don’t have time to ride for an hour, simply doing a few stretching exercises, and/or hand walking your horse up and down the driveway will give them some exercise. Taking a handful of baby carrots and dropping them around their pen, as well as making a couple of small piles of hay, instead of one, will encourage your horse to move around throughout the day.
Monitor big temperature changes. Horses do very well when temperatures change gradually. It’s more difficult in transition seasons when it can be 35 degrees one day and 65 the next. For the first few nights when overnight temperatures drop under freezing, you might want to keep you horses in their stalls overnight. A barn will usually stay about 6-8 degrees warmer then outside temperatures when the horses are inside.
De-worm after a killing frost. Using a good de-wormer that gets all worms – including tapeworms and bots after you’ve had several nights under 30 degrees will help to break the worm cycle within your horse and on your property. Make sure to remove any manure from pens for 48 hours after worming. This will help to prevent re-infestation.
Shame on the equine feed manufacturers for continuing to raise the price of grain to the point that most are getting $17+ for a bag. Even worse is to see that equine senior feeds are $20+ a bag.
We all knew that grain products would go up this fall because of the drought this summer, but to see them jump this high is outrageous. I feel even worse for the owners of senior horses, who are trying to keep their beloved animals going and may only be doing so with a complete feed. I would image many will have to make the tough decision of possibly putting their horse down because they can no longer afford to feed them.
We have just one horse that we feed a senior feed to. When I saw the feed I have been using go over $20 a bag, I said, “ no more”. Fortunately he is in good health and we have good hay and pasture. I will switch him over to another grain by another manufacturer and will simply have to keep an eye on him to see if he does as well on this feed regimen.
I’ve been waiting for this: 40 pound bags of grain. Yes, the last time I was at the feed store I spotted them. Narrower then the traditional 50 pound bag of grain, they were leaning up against the wall. As I waited for my order to be filled, I walked over to them to check for sure. Yes, I was right: 40 pounds.
All summer I have been predicting that we might see this. My horse friends assured me that there was no way something as traditional as the 50 pound size for grain bags would be tampered with. “Don’t be so sure,” I told them. After all, everything else has been sized down – from canned food products to candy bars and from toilet paper rolls to household cleaning products, as a way to charge the same price, but offer less product for that price.
As if we aren’t facing a challenging enough winter, with the drought and hay shortage . . . getting ten pounds less in a grain bag could be the straw that will break the camel’s back for many horse owners. At this point the best thing we can do is to voice our opinions to grain manufacturers and feed mills We need to let them know that we’re not willing to pay the same price for a 40 pound bag of grain . . .
ADM Alliance Nutrition: 217-222-7100, www.admani.com Purina Mills: 800-227-8941, http://horse.purina mills.com Nutrena: Cargill Animal Nutrition 800-227-4455, or 952-742-7575, www.nutrenaworld.com TDI Horse Feeds: 800-457-7577, or 740-362-0197, www.tdihorsefeeds.com Kent Feeds: 800-552-9620, www.livestocknutrition.com Manna Pro: 800-690-9908, or 636-681-1700, www.mannapro.com Hubbard Feeds: 507-388-9400, www.hubbardfeeds.com TizWiz: 800-860-6789, www.tizwhizfeeds.com Buckeye Feeds: 330-828-2251, www.buckeyenutrition.com
At a recent summer gathering a family member commented that it must be nice to have an aluminum horse trailer; “no maintenance”, he said. I quickly corrected him and told him that’s what many horse owners think and five, ten years down the road their aluminum trailer ends up being in no better shape then a steel trailer.
Yes, aluminum is nice because you don’t have to worry about body rust and paint fading. However, that does not mean that there aren’t areas that won’t rust and corrode if you don’t take care of the trailer.
Not cleaning out an aluminum trailer – especially of you have horses that urinate in the trailer will corrode the floor under the mats in a matter of year. When we purchased our trailer the dealer said to pack the sidewall area with shavings. His advice has worked well and I clean the trailer out after every haul.
In addition, leaking can cause water to settle in certain areas of your trailer, and while it won’t rust like a steel trailer, it will start to corrode. If you are unable to stop the leak with caulk, at least wipe the spot out after a hard rain and put a board or two under the mat to help dry the surface out.
Last, but not least: keep an eye on the steel parts of your trailer. Yes, aluminum trailers still have some steel – like door handles, bolts in the hinges, and the hitch. I have spent the past week wirebrushing and painting these areas on my trailer with a rust inhibitor. I will provide more about this process on the Trailer Maintenance page of this site.
These little things make a difference in the life of your trailer. At a recent horse show a fellow competitor (who owns the same brand of trailer) marveled at the fact that my trailer was twice as old as hers and looked newer then her trailer.