A few years ago, I would have told you that weighing your hay was the act of an obsessive-compulsive nut. Years later, having gone through several horses with wildly varying nutritional needs and tendencies toward being over- or underweight, I gave in and started weighing the hay, and the rest of their feed as well.
It does add time to the daily routine, but there are rewards. The horses get a consistent meal every time–and if you were 100% dependent on someone providing your food, wouldn’t you want to make sure you got your fair share? If their weight changes due to activity level increases or decreases or changes in the weather, I know exactly how much I am changing their ration and can track the effect. It’s also good information to have available for your veterinarian if you run into medical problems.
I use their hay bags to weigh the hay. I know how much each horse’s bag weighs (Cowboy’s weighs 2 lbs, Dublin’s weighs 1.5 lbs–keep in mind that all hay bags are not created equal), I figure out how much hay they should get, come up with a total, and that’s how much the stuffed hay bag should weigh. If you use the same container for the same horse every time, you can just weigh the total instead of weighing the container separately each time or zeroing out the scale once the container is on it. To weigh their pellets or grain, I use a supplement bucket that comes with a tight-fitting lid. If they each use the same kind of bucket, you just need to know the weight of one. The lid lets me weigh their ration out a feeding ahead of time, and store it without worrying about rodent invasions, dirt, or moisture.
The scale I use is a hanging scale that is suspended from the barn rafter. I use a plant hanger hook to get it to a comfortable height. Platform scales can also work but I find the hanging scale easier to work with when weighing bulky items such as hay. Mine is a mechanical hanging scale (dial-type), if you are going to Google it, and it is made by Pelouze which seems to be a leader in decent-quality reasonably priced industrial-type scales. Besides the dial face, there are also sliding faces like you see on fish-weighing scales or digital scales (batteries or power required). Figure out how much weight you need to weigh and buy a scale with the appropriate capacity. Too small and you’ll be weighing more than once, too large and you’ll be paying more and it will be harder to get an accurate reading since the increments will be smaller. I think mine weighs up to 50 lbs and that’s plenty of capacity. My horses like to eat but they don’t need anything like 50 lbs! A smaller one would have been fine but this is a pretty standard size and is still very readable, so it was the most economical choice for my needs.
As I mentioned above, I weigh everything out one feeding ahead of time. There are a few reasons for this. First, I am not an early riser and the horses are more than ready for breakfast when I get out to feed in the morning. With everything ready to go, I can give them their hay immediately and keep them happy while their pellets are soaking (while the pellets soak, I measure out the next feeding). If I can’t get home in time to feed in the afternoon or evening, I can call the neighbors and they can feed for me with a minimum of fuss (helpful hint: maintain good relations with your neighbors, you never know when this will happen!)
So that’s the scoop (hah!) on hay weighing around here.