Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Counting the Cost

An anonymous reader posted an interesting comment about hay prices and economics in Oregon...

 "....In Oregon and WA so much hay, grain and alfalfa being sold to Asian countries - feeding any equid has become prohibitive. Even at harvest it's over $100 per ton for grass hay. Orchard hay from eastern WA and Oregon, are running at $200-$300 per ton depending on whether you purchase in bulk or go get it yourself or from feed stores. In western Oregon currently pay feedstore prices over $200/ton for field hay and $300+ for orchard. Oregon alfalfa is being shipped to Calif due to the drought. In WA, alfalfa is going to Japan and far east....."

It's got me thinking.  I was a bit surprised at how it compares to here an I am wondering what it costs to keep a horse or donkey in the rest of the world.  I think this might be of interest to a lot of people and I am hoping that you horse/donkey owners out there will join in and let us all know what things are like in your area.  You can leave a comment here or, if you are a blogger and would prefer, feel free to write about it there and post a link in my comment section.  (I haven't figured out how to put up one of those blog-hop link thingys though.)

In my little patch of universe, the mixed grass hay (which is about all that is available here) is selling for $3.50/bale. That might not sound like a lot, but they are small bales.  The bales average, at best, 30-35 pounds.  If you do the math, that is $200-230 per ton, not including trucking.  Second cutting is going for $4-5 per bale.  Alfalfa is not readily available here as it does not grow well in this area so if you want that, it is likely to cost $10-15 a bale, again for a small bale.  Same for straw.  Much of the hay grown in this area is shipped to areas just outside of NYC, where it is sold for 2-3 times these prices

Veterinary costs have skyrocketed in the last few years and have become downright prohibitive.  The vet is scheduled to come out here tomorrow to do routine dental checkups and vaccinations.  It will cost $70 just to get her to show up, $80-100 per critter for dental work as long as nothing is wrong and $40 each for vaccines.  I could do most of the shots myself, but NY state won't allow me to buy the rabies vaccine and it is required by state law.  Rabies is prevalent here so I would do it regardless.

The frequency and types of vaccination is another topic I wrestle with, but lets leave that for another day.  Vets will not come out for an emergency unless you are an established client, a good part of paying them for routine care that I could do cheaper myself is a type of insurance so that they will come out if I really need them.  These are routine minimums and I am expecting this to be at least a $300 vet bill.  Just a few years ago, it would have been under $100.  I'd like to have a new set of x-rays taken of Ramsey's foot, but I don't think I can manage the extra $150 that would cost right now.  

Farrier costs average $30 for a trim and, last I checked, $70-80 for a set of front shoes and $120-150 for all four.  Just one of the many reasons I do my own hoof trimming.

This little bit of geography is also one of the most economically depressed areas in the country.  Taxes are very high, yet wages are nearly half of the national average (I looked it up on the bureau of labor and statistics).  While there are some jobs out there, few of them pay much above minimum wage or provide full time hours.  This used to be a manufacturing town, but it is all gone now.  The area has also been hit with two catastrophic floods in the past ten years.  It has not recovered well.  I am fortunate to have a very necessary job that can't be outsourced (yet) so it is at least fairly secure, (I work as a very specialized type of lab tech in a hospital).  The hour long commute over poorly maintained, twisty, windy roads though is brutal.

So, I am curious, what's it like in your neck of the woods, wherever that may be?

  • Where are you?
  • What kind of hay is available and what does it cost (remember to tell us a price per ton or at least what a bale weighs as it varies tremendously.  Weight is the only way to compare.)
  • What are routine vet costs?
  • What are farrier costs?
  • What is your area like?
Inquiring  minds want to know:)


  1. NE Tx. i pay $10/bale of 'horse hay' at the feed store. could get it cheaper from local farmers, but that requires more travel/risk/dealing with strangers.

    farrier - $30/equine is pretty standard.

    i pay about $450-$500/for annual shots for 2 equines and sheath cleaning for a gelding. i'm due. dang it.

  2. Di here in Southern California where we are much like Wash & Oregon on hay. The big hay brokers have the covered storage area you cant see the end of it with labels marked CHINA.

    are bales are generally 100 +or- pounds

    bermuda 19.00
    Alfalfa - good alfalfa 25.00
    orchard grass 26.00
    timothy 35.00

    farm call from vet 65.00 the individual vac prices vary with West Nile being the most expensive at 35.00
    we get rattlesnake vac too, i think at 35.00

    Farrier donkeys 35.00 horse 40.00 shoes been awhile but think 80-90 front and double for set

    Alfalfa is grown in Imperial valley almost at Mexican border. poor soil, terrible alfalfa, all hay here has to irrigated.

    the alfalfa from Nevada or little more north in Cali is much better.

  3. Kris, what an excellent subject.
    We have not had equines in the last three years, however, I can address costs. Hay at the feed store this winter ran us 5.50 a bale for brome, and these were heavy bales UNTIL THE LAST MONTH. Alfalfa runs higher at the feed store, about 8.50 to 9.00. There is a lot of alfalfa here, thank heavens. Hay in the field (small squares) last fall was as cheap as 4.00 a bale if you loaded it. I had an offer from a girlfriend to buy brome from her for 4.00 a bale, but hated to use her supply, as she is feeding 50 head of mini and standard horses. Hay (small squares again) was 6.50 in the barn by my supplier from last year who would not deliver a dozen bales. He ended up calling and begging me to buy from him a month ago.
    Trims are 35.00 per equine, and shoes 3 years ago were 70 for a reset.
    Vet bills... even 3 years ago the farm visit cost was 100.00, plus whatever we were having done. We treated our ancient pony for Cushings... had to finally stop using an excellent vet because he tested for everything, everytime, and his visit charges were normally above 300.00. But, you get what you pay for, and the other vet, while a nice person, was not as good or thorough. We fed Purina Senior to our old guy, as well as beet pulp. Purina Senior then was over 20.00 a bag with tax.

    We had a pretty harsh winter here, with very low temps at three different times... I have never had a really good barn with good stalls, out of the weather... and would have hated to put our old ones through this past winter.

    What a great subject, and I look forward to reading the comments.

  4. California, Central Coast

    We are an area of small coastal towns with rural acreage inland from beach. Agriculture, cattle ranching, wineries, tourism and a major university drive our economy. We have rolling hills, oak and pine. We joke we have two seasons -- green and brown. Unfortunately, our area is in an extreme drought for 2013/2014. Five inches of rain so far this season. We should be above 20 inches for an average year; 40"+ for El Nino years.

    We use a hay broker nearby who gets great quality hay from northern California and Southern Oregon. He has alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, oat hay and forage hay. Most hay grown locally is by/for the cattle ranchers.

    We feed orchard grass to our two donkeys -- $22.75/ bale, 2nd and 3rd cutting. Bales are 100+ pounds each. We have room to store about 40 bales so that is $910, plus $40 delivery.

    Our vet lives just a few miles away and charges $32 for a “ranch” call, exam included. Rabies vaccines are $27.00 each and EWTFRWNV vaccines are $83.00 each. I have him come spring and fall and give the rabies at one visit and the combo vaccine at the other as one of my donkeys is sensitive to vaccines and meds.

    The farrier comes every six weeks, $45.00 for each donkey. With a tip/money for gas (100 mile R/T for farrier) it is about $120-$130 each visit.

  5. Arizona-
    Hay is 14-16 for bermuda (three string bales 100lb each)
    alfalfa 12-14
    dental work.....Holy crap! 150-170 plus the sedatives. (my last bill for 2 horses was over 500)
    farrier work-100-150 for shoeing, 40-60 for trimming
    I also pay about 280 a ton for my pellets.

  6. Midwest -

    Grass hay (mostly orchard, timothy, or fescue) ranges from $3 to about $6 at the moment if you buy from the farmer or a broker. I think my local feed store is $8. At the height of last winter - post drought - it went up to $10 and I thought it would do me in. There is tremendous variation in quality and size. Sometimes the bales are 30lbs and sometimes 60. I get mine from a local weekend farmer for $3 who delivers it to me for an extra 50 cents a bale. He does it as a second job and likes having a steady customer, so he kept the price low all winter.
    Alfalfa is plentiful around here but costs a couple of dollars more a bale.
    Straw costs about the same as grass hay. It is mostly wheat straw I think.
    Farrier costs range from $30 to $40 dollars for a barefoot trim. Shoes are around $80 for a regular size horse, but of course can vary.
    Vets vary a lot too. We have a lot of high-end vets who work with performance horses around here and they charge a lot, but I use a woman who works on her own and charges about $30 for a farm visit. I can't remember the price of vaccines but I think they're about the same as others. As already said, I use her consistently for yearly shots, etc., almost solely so that I have someone who will come in the event of an emergency. My little operation is way to trivial for one of the high-end guys to come quickly if I call. Still, I have a couple of vets on my list if need be. We also live 30 minutes from a top-notch vet school and they have a great ruminant program that I've taken the sheep and goat to. I've found it much much much harder to find a vet who will do farm visits for ruminants. My equine vet will give my goats and sheep yearly shots, but she's told me she doesn't know enough about the ruminants to do anything serious. I have to say that in general I find the farm animal vets, include horses, much more reasonable than small animal vets. Twice now the vets have saved one of the sheep or goats from the brink of dying and the bill has only been two or three hundred dollars. No surgery, but still. For a dog, you're already in for $100 when you step through the clinic door with a healthy animal.
    Finally, dental work. Also varies. The vets who do it charge as part of their visit charge maybe 30 or 40 dollars to float the teeth, but I've found that that's not so useful anyway. A real equine dentist will cost $150, plus sedatives. I only use the real dentist for the horses who have bits put in their mouths.
    Bedding? I use the cheapest pine pellets I can find - $3.99 for a 40lb bag. I don't have a place to store loose sawdust.

  7. I live in a small village in the Kingston area of Ontario. We buy large round bales (five feet across) once every two weeks for our four donkeys at $20 a bale. That includes delivery by the man that grows the hay and lives just one concession down from us. It is timothy and grass hay. Our vet costs are about $100 a donkey once a year for their shots and teeth floating if necessary. Our farrier costs are about $25 a donkeyf or hoof trimming.

  8. Grass or grass/alfalfa between 2 and 300 /ton depending on time of year and how far it has to travel here in montana. I grow some of it which helps. Also grow grain hay..last summer it was hay barley this year it will be willow creek winter wheat. Vet comes in the spring and does vaccinations, checks teeth, and we worm at the same time. Hoof trimming is 35 usually depending on how many he is doing in the same area on that day. Several of us try to combine our vet appointments and our trimming appointments.

  9. I'm in Ky. I'm out of hay - down to the last 4 bales and the weather just. won't. break. Farrier is $25 for a trim. I don't even want to begin to add up my vet bills. Jobs are a little more available here if you don't mind a 40 minute drive to the big city. Locally, not much. Okay, I'm officially depressed now. Just kidding. Sort of...

  10. Hey Kris, have done some calculations.... will put in £s as I'm not good with conversion! Hope the following is of interest :-)

    Where are you? - Devon in the UK
    What kind of hay is available and what does it cost? - We have meadow hay available which is £4-5 per 20 kg bale and haylage which is £6-7 per 25kg bale, along with this we feed barley straw which is approx £100 per tonne.
    What are routine vet costs? - Vet costs are approx £50 callout, £50 per dental and £50 for routine vaccinations (flu and tetanus) each, thankfully the mules are very sturdy and we haven't had cause to incur other expenses, everyone needs a mule they truly have hybrid vigour!
    What are farrier costs? Foot trimming is £25 per animal
    What is your area like? We are on the edge of Dartmoor which is 400 sq miles of very old fashioned grassland grazed by wild ponies, sheep and cattle and covered by peat bogs and granite 'tors' which are rocky outcrops. Our weather is wet but fairly mild with temperatures normally between 5-25 C, the grass grows well but so does the mud!

  11. Hi Kris,

    I'm in Central NY halfway between Utica and Old Forge. I've paid from $2.77 to $3.00 for a 35-40 lb bale grass hay this year. It wasn't the best year for hay. Most of it was made late so it has more weeds than usual. The guy I buy from ships a lot of it to Connecticut and points New England. I've heard that prices are a little bit less further north near Lowville and Watertown.

    Vet costs - $67 for farm call, $100 for teeth, Vaccines - 4 required in NY avg about $23 each. Coggins I have the certificates in front of me but I can't find the itemized bill, but the total cost was $150. I used a different vet for the Coggins just to get on their books and paid a seperate farm call. Assuming farm call is about the same as my other vet would put Coggins at $40 each.

    I only had a farrier here once. It cost $35 each for a trim. Since then I've been doing my own farrier work with advice from books and an expert friend.

  12. Hey,
    I am in Wyoming and I pay $300 per ton for grass hay.
    Farrier Cost-$50 per trim and $85.00 for full set of shoes
    Health Check-$45
    Vaccines- $145 per equine
    $45 farm call

  13. Wow, reading this makes me really appreciate where I live. Southern States is all I'll say!! We have five mules, two horses, dairy goats, meat rabbits and chickens. I pay $15 for a 4'x5' round bale of Orchard/Johnson grass hay, $15 for a 50lb. bag of alfalfa Chaffhaye at the feed store for my dairy goats, $10 for 50lbs. scratch feed for my chickens, $12.50 for ADM Dairy goat feed, $8.99 for crimped oats, $12.99 for 50lbs. Alfalfa pellets, $26 for 50lbs. black oil sunflower seeds for chickens and goats, $13.50 for 50lbs. rabbit feed, $3 per super heavy tight packed square bale of good mixed grass hay for rabbits and goats.

    My farrier is awesome and charges $25 for trims, $55 for resets, $65 for new sets.

    My vet is only 20 minutes away so I haul my mules to her. She is so cheap I often make her recalculate everything to make sure she's right!!! She is awesome with my goats too which is really hard to find.

    Basically, it's more expensive to keep the dogs healthy here than it is for the mules!