How Much Does It Cost to Feed a Draft Horse? A Comprehensive Guide

Feeding a draft horse is a significant consideration for owners, especially when it comes to understanding the costs involved. Draft horses, being larger than their lighter counterparts, tend to consume more food, making it essential to provide adequate nutrition without breaking the bank.

Various factors, such as the type of feed, weight of the horse, and location, can significantly influence the overall expenses. To help horse owners make informed decisions, this article will dive into the costs associated with feeding draft horses and offer practical tips on managing these expenses effectively.

Determining Daily Feed Requirements

draft horse eating hay

When calculating the cost of feeding a draft horse, it’s essential to determine their daily feed requirements. This can be influenced by the horse’s weight, activity level, age, and health conditions, among other factors. In this section, we’ll discuss the importance of considering weight and activity level, as well as age and health conditions, in determining a draft horse’s daily feed requirements.

Weight and Activity Level

The body weight of a draft horse plays a significant role in determining how much feed they require each day. According to the National Research Council, an average riding-type horse requires 33.3 Cal per kilogram of body weight per day at maintenance. However, draft horses have a lower energy requirement of 24.6 Cal per kilogram of body weight per day (Tribute Equine Nutrition).

Activity level also affects daily feed requirements. A draft horse at rest or with a light workload will need fewer calories than one performing heavy work or labor. It’s vital to take both body weight and activity level into account to provide an appropriate feeding plan and estimate costs.

Age and Health Conditions

In addition to weight and activity level, a draft horse’s age and overall health also influence their daily feed requirements. Growing horses, for example, need higher amounts of protein and other nutrients to support proper development. Similarly, pregnant and lactating mares have increased nutritional demands that should be taken into account when planning their daily feed intake.

Health conditions can also affect a horse’s dietary needs. For example, horses with metabolic issues, such as insulin resistance or Cushing’s disease, may require specially formulated feeds to help manage their condition. Draft horses with dental or gastrointestinal problems might also need special considerations when planning their diet.

Taking into account factors such as weight, activity level, age, and health conditions is necessary to determine the appropriate daily feed requirements for a draft horse. This information not only helps ensure the horse’s well-being but also allows for accurate estimation of feeding costs.

Types of Feed and Their Costs

draft horse eating hay on a bright day


Hay is an essential part of a draft horse’s diet, providing the bulk of their forage needs. The daily recommended forage intake for a draft horse is about 2.5% of their body weight. For a 1,600-pound draft horse, this would amount to 40 pounds of hay per day3. The cost of hay can vary depending on the region, season, and quality. For example, grass hay might cost anywhere from $0.10 to $0.20 per pound. Hence, the daily hay expenditure for a draft horse could range from $4 to $8.

Grains and Concentrates

Grains and concentrates are often used to provide additional energy and essential nutrients for draft horses, especially when they perform more work. A properly balanced grain mixture, whether pelleted or textured, can be offered to meet their calorie and nutritional demands2. Costs of grains and concentrates can differ widely based on their quality and formulation.

For instance, if a premium horse feed is priced at $20 per 50-pound bag, it equates to $0.40 per pound5. A horse at maintenance level may require 4 pounds of feed per day, resulting in a daily cost of $1.60. For those with light to moderate exercise, the daily intake might increase to 8 pounds, leading to a $3.20 daily feed cost.

Supplements and Minerals

Supplements and minerals are sometimes necessary for draft horses to meet their specific needs. These additional products may include vitamins, minerals, and other specific supplements tailored to individual horses’ requirements. To ensure the best possible care, consult with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian to determine an appropriate supplementation program.

Prices for supplements and minerals can vary widely based on their contents and brands. In general, costs can range from a few cents to several dollars per day, depending on the type and amount needed for each horse.

Regional and Seasonal Price Variations

draft horse eating hay with sun in the background

Feeding a draft horse can vary in cost depending on geographic location and climate conditions. This section will explore how these factors can influence the overall expense of feeding a draft horse.

Geographic Factors

Different regions may have varying prices for hay and grains, which are essential components of a draft horse’s diet. These discrepancies in cost can be attributed to factors such as local supply and demand, transportation expenses, and availability of specific feed types. For example, certain areas may have abundant supplies of home-grown grains and roughages traditionally used for feeding draft horses, such as oats, corn, and rolled barley, which can help decrease feeding costs for horse owners in those regions(LMF Feeds, Inc.).

Climate Considerations

Climate and seasonal factors can significantly impact the cost of feeding a draft horse. In colder weather conditions, horses require more calories to maintain their body temperature and overall health, which can lead to increased feed consumption and cost. Additionally, the availability and quality of forage and roughages for horses may be affected in different seasons, leading to changes in feeding expenses. For instance, during winter months, horse owners may need to rely on stored hay, which could drive up the cost of feed, depending on local hay prices and availability.

In conclusion, regional and seasonal price variations can impact the cost of feeding a draft horse. By understanding the influence of geographic and climate factors, draft horse owners can make informed decisions when planning their horses’ feeding regimens and expenses.

Reducing Feed Costs

draft horse eating hay

Optimizing Pasture Management

One effective method of reducing feed costs for draft horses is to optimize pasture management. Effective pasture management helps provide the necessary nutrients for horses without incurring additional expense on supplementary feed. Maintaining a well-managed pasture contributes significantly to the overall health of draft horses and limits the need for purchased hay and grain.

Draft horses generally don’t require expensive pelletized feed or grain, as they are prone to obesity. Instead, ensuring they have access to a high-quality pasture with ample forage is crucial for their nutritional requirements [source].

Bulk Purchasing and Storage

Another strategy for reducing feed costs is to purchase feed supplies in bulk at reduced prices. By taking advantage of bulk discounts, horse owners can significantly lower the cost of feeding their animals. It’s important to invest in proper storage solutions to maintain the quality and freshness of bulk feed purchases.

For instance, if the forage provided by a pasture does not supply sufficient protein or calories, low-cost feeds, such as soyhulls and beet pulp, can be added to supplement the horse’s diet [source]. To illustrate, some estimated low-cost feed options include:

  • Soyhulls: $0.35/kg
  • Beet pulp: $0.80/kg
  • Vegetable oil: Varies

By combining optimized pasture management and bulk purchasing strategies, horse owners can significantly reduce the costs associated with feeding draft horses, while ensuring that their animals receive adequate nutrition.


In summary, feeding a draft horse involves calculating their nutritional requirements based on their weight and specific dietary needs.

Owners should expect to provide about 40 pounds of hay daily for a 2000-pound draft horse, with the monthly cost of hay and grain averaging around $300, totaling approximately $3,600 per year (Horse Rookie).

It’s crucial to feed your draft horse a balanced diet by factoring in their unique metabolism and calm demeanor that often result in lower energy requirements compared to light horses (Kentucky Equine Research).

Maintaining a proper feeding regimen for draft horses contributes to their overall health, benefiting both the horse and the owner’s wallet.