4 acres - hay or pasture?
We are looking at a lot of about 5.5 acres for horse property. Having planned out the house, round pen, arena, barn, etc., it all takes up about 1.5 acres. That means I have about 3-4 acres, depending on how large of a dry-lot turnout I decide to have, that I can either use as pasture or grow my own hay on. The lot has been used to grow hay before (I'm not sure if it's still being used to grow hay).
We plan on having 2-4 horses. My horses have been hay-fed up to this point, and I don't mind continuing that. The idea of pasture is nice since they will have more room to run around. However, I'd like to go with the most cost-effective option. If I were to grow hay, I'd have a larger dry-lot to satisfy turn-out needs. If I had pasture, the dry-lot would be smaller. In addition, the horses would have limited time out on the pasture and still receive some hay and supplements in the mornings and/or evenings.
Which would be the most cost effective? I have never grown my own hay before and would hire someone to come do the heavy-machinery work like baling (It's a farming community, so I'm sure I could find someone and we even have a few friends there that grow hay). I estimate getting about 8 tons of hay per acre (4 cuttings @ 2 tons per cutting). With even 3 acres, 24 tons of hay would be plenty for my 4 horses, and any extra bales I could sell, but would it save me any money?
If I didn't grow hay, how much would it cost to make the land suitable for pasture?