Costs of Feeding Your Horse

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price

Feeding your horse is another expense that comes with owning a horse. Horse owners want to find the best way to feed their horses and make sure they get enough nutrition.

There are many factors that could influence which feed you choose. However, it is important to calculate the costs so owners can make informed decisions. Forage is the foundation of every horse’s diet. The cost of forage will vary depending on whether your horse is eating hay or pasture. Forage for horses is best provided it is established in pastures. There will be expenses associated with maintaining pastures, including fertilizer, fuel, labor and other considerations. Annual pasture maintenance costs can be estimated at $50-150 per acre. The general rule is to give 2 acres of pasture to each horse. This means that the annual costs of maintaining a horse on pasture can range from $100 ($0.27/day) to $300 ($0.82/day). Horses don’t graze on pasture all year and will require hay supplementation.

Costs of Feeding Your Horse

Costs per day for hay are easy to calculate. The type of hay that you feed will affect the cost. Prices will vary depending on where you live, the quality of your forage and any unforeseen factors like drought or other natural disasters. We will assume that a 1000-pound horse is being fed 1.5% of its daily body weight in forage. This would mean that 15 pounds of forage is required per day.

  • A 50-pound bale would be of grass hay It is priced at $7, and fed at a rate of 15 lb/day.
    • $7/50 lb = $0.14 per lb
    • 15 lb x $0.14 = $2.10/day or $767/year
  • A 50-pound bale would be of mixed grass/legume hay It is priced at $10, and fed at a rate 15 lb/day.
    • $10/50 lb = $0.20 per lb
    • 15 lb x $0.20 = $3.00/day or $1,095/year
  • A 50-pound bale would be of legume hay It is priced at $14, and fed at a rate 15 lb/day.
    • $14/50 lb = $0.28 per lb
    • 15 lb x $0.28 = $4.20/day or $1,533/year

It is important that you remember that legume hays (like alfalfa) will provide more nutrients for horses than grass hays. This hay is usually more expensive. Round bales are more affordable than square bales but owners often lose more hay to wastage.

Feed costs can be calculated in the same way as hay. There are so many options for quality and formulation of feeds. It is not a good idea to decide on a feed solely based upon its cost. Feeds can be divided into premium, high-quality feeds or standard feeds. We will use this example to show you how much concentrate it would cost to feed a horse 1000 pounds. Premium feeds are generally recommended to be fed in lower amounts because they contain higher levels of nutrients. Therefore:

  • A bag of standard horse feed It is priced at $1/50 lb bag = $0.28 lb
    • Maintenance, fed 5 lb per day is 5 x $0.28 = $1.40 per day
    • Light/moderate exercise, fed 10 lb per day is 10 x $0.28 = $2.80 per day
  • A bag of Premium horse feed It is priced at $20/50lb bag = $0.40 lb
    • Maintenance Horse Feeding at 4 lb/day is 4 x $0.40 = 1.60 per day
    • Light/Moderate exercise weighing 8 lb per person per day is 8x $0.40 = $3.20/day

This means that a standard horse feed costs anywhere from $511 to $1,022 per year (maintenance) Premium feed costs $584 per year (maintenance) and $1,168 for light/moderate exercise. The difference is $73 and $146.

The benefits and added nutrients that are found in premium feeds are not included in the differences in feeds. These premium feeds can be supplemented with standard feeds, which will dramatically increase your cost. Tribute’s premium line feeds are fortified with vitamins and amino acids. These feeds are also more fat-intensive and include pre- and probiotics. These nutrients can be supplemented with standard feeds to match premium feeds.

  • Quality fat can cost $0.50 to $1.00 per day, depending on the source
  • Vitamin/mineral mix with antioxidants can cost $0.50 to $1.50/day
  • Pre- and probiotics can be added for as little as $0.50 per day
  • Additional high-quality protein (amino acid) can be added up to $1.00/day

Supplementing your horse’s needs with a lower-quality feed can cause a cost increase of $2.00 per day or $730 annually if you choose a low-quality, standard feed.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right forage or concentrate for your horse. To calculate your daily costs and compare feeds according to manufacturer recommendations, you can use the worksheet or the calculations above. Contact us if you need any assistance or advice in creating a feeding plan that suits your horse’s needs.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!