It’s finally raining in Texas! And grass is beginning to grow in pastures following the crippling drought brought on by Texas’s “Nuclear Summer of 2011”. Horse businesses in many parts of the country have only relatively recently begun to purchase round bales and make other preparations for winter. But most operators in Texas have been forced to feed horses practically every bite they’ve had to eat since summer, and they will have to continue feeding through winter and early spring along with everyone else.
To manage this unfortunate scenario, and to make sure your pastures are restored to pre-drought conditions in 2012, there are a couple of proactive steps you can take:
1) Raise board / maintenance rates to cover your increased costs for hay. If you need to increase fees to cover your hay costs, be sure to send each of your customers a notice of the rate increase well in advance of the month you actually increase rates for feeding. Your written agreements with customers should contain language indicating that boarding / maintenance rates are subject to change. If this is not already in your agreements, it would be a good idea to include this in your 2012 agreements.
2) Share hay delivery costs. For delivered hay, it is typically less expensive to buy it by the stacker load (about 5 tons) or an entire semi-load (about 17 to 20 tons). If you can’t use this much hay, you might save freight costs by finding another farm that is interested in splitting a load.
3) Take immediate action to speed pasture recovery. According to an article by Dr. Daren Redfearn, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension forage and pasture management specialist, this can be done by a combination of restricted grazing, fertilizer, and weed control. Dr. Redfearn’s full article can be found here. Oklahoma’s pasture conditions in the wake of the 2011 drought and current moisture levels are comparable to those in most parts of Texas.
Speaking of Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma, a recap of last weekend’s fan riot at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater that injured 13 people can be found here. One emergency medical technician described the mayhem resulting from the riot as “much worse” than the magnitude 5.6 earthquake that hit Stillwater in November.