As hay prices soar, new mobile apps developed at University of Minnesota Extension can help horse owners more precisely determine how much hay to purchase and feed their animals.
"Horses have evolved from work animals to recreational animals, with many leading leisurely lifestyles of limited exercise and access to lush pasture and grain. The recent shortage of hay and the spike in prices have forced many horse owners to re-evaluate their feeding strategies,” says Krishona Martinson, U of M Extension equine specialist. Adding to the complexities of horse feeding is the fact that most horses have differing dietary needs, she notes.
The U of M Extension’s horse team worked with researchers from the university and across the country to find solutions. Two mobile apps for use with iPhones and iPads have been developed for the horse industry by a group led by Martinson. Android versions are in development.
App 1: Hay Price Calculator
"Horse owners are one of the few groups of livestock owners that buy hay by the bale,” Martinson says. "Buying by the bale can make it difficult to compare prices between and within bale types. A $4 small square bale that weighs 35 pounds actually costs more per ton than a $5 bale that weighs 50 pounds, for example.”
With the "Hay Price Calculator” app, horse owners enter bale weight and price to calculate price per ton. Calculations for small square bales, large square bales and round bales can be made, allowing the buyer to purchase the most economical hay. Farmers have said the app will also be useful to determine the price per ton of corn stalks, straw and other feed stuffs.
Hay buyers must know the bale weight, and the app does not take nutritive value into account.
"Ideally, the app will be used to compare prices of hay with similar forage nutritive values,” Martinson says. The U of M Extension provides horse nutrition information on their website.
The Hay Price Calculator app retails for $0.99.
App 2: Healthy Horse
Veterinarians and professionals have long expressed concern over increasing rates of equine obesity. The "Healthy Horse” app helps horse owners and professionals estimate their horse’s body weight. The results can help owners, veterinarians and other equine professionals make decisions based on whether a horse is identified as being ideal, overweight or underweight. Researchers collected data on nearly 700 horses to develop the app.
"Determining a horse’s body weight is critical for weight and feeding management, and for administering medication,” said Molly McCue, University of Minnesota Associate Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, one of the app developers.
The "Healthy Horse” app allows horse owners and professionals to estimate the body weight of various adult horses—Arabians, ponies, stock, saddle and miniature—by entering height, body length, neck and girth circumference. Ideal body weight and a body weight score are also calculated for Arabians, ponies and stock horses.
The Healthy Horse apps retails for $1.99.