Woman lifting fresh green hay from a pile with a hay fork

Bulk Buying Hay for Winter

As we approach winter here in South Africa, there is one reality we all have to face: Hay Scarcity.

Roughage should make up the majority of a horse's diet and they need to eat around 1.5% of their own ideal body weight in forage every single day. In summer, this is made up largely of fresh grass  supplemented with hay. Easy!

In winter, growing good quality fresh grass becomes more challenging, meaning you have to rely more heavily on the hay that has been stored and harvested through the previous growing season. The problem? With  fewer and fewer producers, and more and more difficult growing conditions even during the prime growing season, the winter hay supply  is very much limited and finding good quality grass is becoming even harder. What to do? Get preparing before the hay-hunger-games begin. 

We asked Michelle Harding from Windswept Stables in Pretoria East for her advice. She strongly advises buying bulk upfront for the year. Here’s why: 


"Bulk has the biggest advantage of saving on costs as you can buy straight from farmer. However, you will need storage space. That will cost to build but is a once off expense.  
Also buying in bulk means that you can buy for a year upfront and therefore are not a victim in winter of price increases due to scarcity. If you buy from one farmer it also means your horses are used to the taste of his grass. Some horses can need a few days adjustment time if the grass tastes strange to them. You build valuable relationships with the farmer who will help you in difficult times. In my mind bulk buying holds all the advantages.

However if you have a very big yard with limited space it may make sense to buy from a feed merchant. Most of them will look after you (at a premium) in the dry periods. But it certainly drives up costs over the long term that impacts on the profitability of your business."  


Thank you for your valuable input, Michelle! 


Aside from buying in bulk, it’s also worth taking a look at how you can get the best out of your own paddocks and grazing even during winter.  Try to make sure there is enough space for paddocks to be "rested" and rotated to allow the grass to recover. This can help save you money on grass that needs to be supplemented, as you will have more fresh forage available to your horse.

We hope this helps you to figure out the best way forward for you and your horse this winter! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our team - we are happy to help!