When I visit someone’s place who wants to develop a beautiful and vibrant horse property, I’m often asked, “What equipment do I need to help manage my farm?” The question makes me remember a bit of wisdom I was given from the folks I grew up with that’s as true today as it was back then: your best piece of equipment is a good plan.
A good plan helps you determine your needs.
You can have all the fancy equipment in the world but if you don’t have a plan for how to use it, that equipment can be more of a burden than a blessing. By planning ahead you can determine what equipment you will actually need.
By thinking through things, you can eliminate some equipment from the start. On the surface, some items seem nice. But when you look at them closely you realize they either have more features than you will ever need (and cost more than you need to spend) or you might not need them at all. Also, you can determine specifics about the equipment you need. Does it take 25 hp or 35 hp to pull the manure spreader? Do you need forks or a hay spear?
A good plan covers uncommon occurrences.
Most people who sit down and make a good, detailed plan for their horse farm cover all of the usual topics like manure storage, fencing, pasture management, barn fires, injuries, etc. But a really good plan covers not just the common things, but also those uncommon things that can occur without notice, no matter what the weather. For example:
Biological Disasters -. A few years ago, we were renting stalls and keeping our horses at a barn with 20 other horses. That winter an epidemic of equine influenza hit our region and the state veterinarian shut down a few barns. We implemented biosecurity procedures and still a few of the horses on the other side of the farm came down with it and were quarantined until it passed.
Our horses were shielded because we had the equipment and procedures in place to handle it. Part of your plan should ask the question: what will you do if your horses become sick, or how will you prevent them from getting sick should a breakout occur in your community? Do you have the equipment in place – footbaths, gloves, etc. to handle it?
Natural Disasters -. Earthquakes, forest fires, snow and windstorms and (in our region) volcanic eruptions, can occur without warning. When they do, even if your property is not directly affected, they can affect those things that provide your property with essentials like electricity, water, and natural gas.
When contemplating your plan, you should take these things into consideration. Should you install cisterns to collect water from your barn so that the horses have something to drink? Are solar panels or a small wind generator good ideas for you? Should the hay storage be bigger in case you can’t get to town?
Economic Disasters. Another event most people don’t plan for is an economic disaster – either from losing their job or becoming injured in some way that prevents them from having full (or any) employment. Events like these not only prevent you from doing the normal chores and activities you normally do in order to care for your horses, but they can also put a financial burden on you that can prevent you from providing basic care for your horses.
Times like this can be very stressful. So, to help relieve the stress during that time, it’s always best to have a plan in place to get you through. Do you have savings set aside to care for your horse during this time? Do you have a friend who can house and care for your horse with theirs until things have passed?
So, when you think of getting equipment for your farm, first remember that tried and true old saying – and make yourself a good plan.
Michael Hipp describes himself as “just a fair-to-middlin’ cowboy from the Texas Panhandle”. Michael is a former instructor of Biological and Animal Sciences at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Oklahoma. He has built and managed ranches in both Kansas and Texas and has a passion for helping folks overcome challenges in their own operations. He currently works as a farm planner for the Snohomish Conservation District in Snohomish County, Washington where he assists horse and livestock owners find solutions to resource issues and efficient chore management. Michael is an avid supporter and leader in the 4-H Horse Program. He teaches and speaks at many agricultural and equestrian focused forums and workshops annually. He lives in Snohomish County, Washington.