It’s Time to Bring in the Hay!

hay in wheelbarrow Horses evolved to graze all day long, but that’s just not practical or even possible for many barns. No matter what a horse’s situation, she should eat 1 to 2% of her body weight in forage per day. How much is that? How do you know how much hay to feed a horse? Let’s take a look.

Horse Talk – forage: Plant material (mainly plant leaves and stems) eaten by horses and ponies and other grazing livestock. The most common forages include pasture grasses, long-stem hay, hay cubes, and hay pellets.

1. If your horse weighs 400 kg (880 lbs) and you were feeding her 2% of her body weight in hay each day, how much hay would you feed her each day? bale of hay

Hay comes in bales. Each bale is made up of different sections called flakes. Unfortunately, a “flake” is not a unit of weight measurement. So how can you know how much you are feeding?

Often, when purchasing hay from a dealer, the weight of each type of hay is listed along with the price. The weight of the bale is then divided by the average number of flakes.

Right now, in the Pacific Northwest, a 50 lb bale of first cut local hay is listed at $7.95. An average bale of grass hay has 12 flakes. Now, let’s do the math.

2. How much does one flake of the local first cut hay weigh?

3. If you were feeding a horse, Barney, 20 pounds of the first cut local hay per day, how many flakes would you feed him?  feeding a horse hay

4. How many bales would you need to feed Barney for a whole week?

5. How much would it cost to feed Barney hay for one week?

6. Calculate how much it would cost to feed Barney hay for the month of July.

Hauling and stacking hay is one of the many chores that must be completed on a horse farm. A small sized pickup truck can carry 25 bales.

pickup truck loaded with hay

Two dogs riding on top of a pickup full of hay bales on Main Street in Antonito, Colorado.

7. Imagine you’ve picked up a load of hay for Barney. You’ve got 25 bales of the first cut local hay in the back of your pickup truck. How much did this hay cost? 

8. How many days will this amount of hay feed Barney?

9. After unloading and stacking the bales, how much weight will you have carried? Write your answer in word form.

Click here if you’re interested in learning more about feeding hay to horses.

Common Core:
4.OA.A.2 – Divide by 2-digit numbers: word problems; Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division word problems
5.NBT.B.7 – Multiply a decimal by a one-digit whole number; Multiply a decimal by a multi-digit whole number; Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals: word problems
6.NS.B.3 – Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.
6.RP.A.3c – Percents of numbers: word problems

First three photos by Deborah Stacey
Dog Ride by Jeffrey Beall; CC BY-SA 2.0

Icons made by Freepik from is licensed by CC BY 3.0

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