All horse owners will be well aware that the price of horse feed has been increasing rapidly. Sometimes it can feel like an overwhelming experience, ordering food for you horse and finding that the bill is more expensive than ever. We all want our horses to consume the best possible food with all the nutrition required to keep them healthy and happy, but why is the price on the rise? Well, just as in the human food industry there are a number of factors that have all come at once creating a perfect storm for horse feed producers.
Heavy Demand on Ingredients
As horse owners, it’s easy to forget that commonly used feed ingredients are used for many more things than feeding our horses! Even straw which was once a waste material from cereal growing, is now a valuable co-product used in power stations as an energy source or a valuable organic fertiliser. The supply of materials isn’t infinite and if demand accelerates such as in the energy sector, supply can struggle to keep up and so prices rise.
Less use of chemicals
Understandably, the use of chemicals in agriculture is gradually being reduced. An example that has received a lot of press coverage is neonicotinoids which are used to treat oil seed rape to prevent flea beetle damage. Following the ban on the use of neonicotinoids, the combination of increased flea beetle damage and farmers choosing not to grow oil seed rape because of the risks of the crop failing, mean the prices of oil seed rape have gone up. Rape seed oil is a commonly used ingredient in horse feed and so is a significant reason prices of feed have gone up.
Varying Weather Patterns
The weather is notoriously unpredictable and climate change is undoubtedly providing a challenge for farmers around the world. Feed ingredients used in horse food are traded on a global scale and so weather events around the world impact on prices. Severe weather not only reduces yields but often drives demand up as farmers seek alternatives to the pasture they would normally rely on as a major contributor to their animal’s requirements.
Rising Pallet Costs
Horse feed in Europe is generally transported on wooden pallets as it is packaged into smaller 15-20kgs packs. The price of pallets has risen considerably in the UK as a result of the pandemic and effects of Brexit and the UK now has some of the most expensive pallets in Europe. As well as the cost of timber, steel and nails that contribute to more than three-quarters of the overall pallet price have also risen, creating an unavoidable hike in the price of pallets.
What Can You Do?
Although you cannot stop the prices raising, there are ways you can try to offset some of the increases. Try to buy in bulk if you have room and if space is limited, consider whether you can share a bulk order with another horse owner. Buying a 10kgs tub rather than a 1kg tub of supplement for example, offers a significant saving and if you split it with a friend the initial outlay isn’t as great and you are likely to get through it in time even if you only have one horse or pony.
Buy high-quality horse feed – although the cost of premium brands may seem daunting, swapping to cheaper brands can be a false economy. You often find you are able to feed less of a better quality feed as your horse will do better on it and if you do use a poorer quality feed there is more chance your horse will lose condition or potentially even develop other problems. A common example is the forage – buying a cheaper hay can end up giving a horse a cough or respiratory issue that is more costly to address in the long run.
As the price of horse feed increases, you should be especially wary of manufacturers who are not raising their prices. They may be offering a sub-par product that will cause much more harm than good in the long term or they may be cutting corners in where they source their materials from.