Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hay For Sale!

After last year's drought in our area, "Hay for Sale" signs are abundant again. I'm sure thankful to see "Hay for Sale" signs again.

Last year was tough. I only have two horses to feed through the winter. I can only imagine how the hay situation went for people who had more horses, if they hadn't gotten their hay by the end of August.

We managed. We ended up driving to another county to buy more expensive hay because I couldn't find anyone around the area who had square bales to sell last year. If they did, they were keeping it back or they had round bales. I don't buy round bales for a couple of reasons. One, we're not set up to deal with round bales. Two, most round bales are not horse worthy if the farmer is baling for cows. Most of the round balers in Southern Ohio are baling for cows.

I bought a round bale once. Live and learn. Hubby talked me into it. I was slightly desperate for hay at the end of March a couple of years back. It was ok, but we knew the guy who sold it to us and he had his round bales stored in a barn. He had some horses and cows. The giant round bale was a pain for us to deal with but got me through to new grass and new season of hay.

I can't blame a farmer for keeping hay back. I just wish I could get this hay thing figured out for myself! Every year since I bought my horses, hay has been one of our biggest issues. With all the research I've done, and all the first-hand experience working at the stable, I never once thought hay would turn into a major issue for me, but it does, every cotton pickin' year!

We have limited storage area right now. I have figured I can get by with 100 square bales, but I'd like to have more. Unfortunately, the current storage area we have will hold a solid 100. Usually by February, I'm needing hay again.

I don't have year around grazing areas although we keep trying to achieve that. Just hasn't worked out yet. We still need to take down a hill full of trees in the back field before we can re-seed with grass. Life often has a mind of its own sometimes! Priorities get re-prioritized. Even though I have it on the top of my list for this year, the expected, unexpected wedding of #1 son sort of took the wind out of our financial sails for a few months. That's ok, we're flexible. Still leaves the issue, I will need more hay this year!

I would really love to have one supplier. However, I haven't been able to find that one perfect hay farmer. Hubby has had a guy set up for the past 3 years but something always seems to come up. I'm not saying the guy is lying, I'm sure he's not. He has his own family invested farm with cows and horses. One year his bales were torched. Last year during the drought when everyone was scrounging around for hay, he had over 100 bales stolen. This year it was first cut hay that got all muddy so they round baled all of it. I'm at the point I just say "yeah, whatever" when Hubby informs me that this particular supplier won't be able to sell us bulk. I don't think promises should be made if you can't deliver, just my way of looking at it. So, search is on for hay!

In July I bought a total of twenty-four bales from two different feed supply stores who also bale their own hay. Usually, in the past, the quality of their mixed grass hay has been fine. Granted, my spoiled rotten boys (when it comes to their taste in hay anyway!) prefer Timothy-mix but will eat mixed grasses.

As we loaded up the first batch Hubby and I thought the bales were heavy but we looked them over and thought everything was ok. Seemed good enough on the outside. No visible problems. At least not until I got them home, got them stacked and then opened some up. Every one of them had that crappy moldy stuff that smokes when you open them. I could have cried! I was a grouch about it all summer! I could have taken them back I suppose, but I didn't. I knew this supplier deals with horse and cow people because I had talked to them, so I chalked it up to "next time buyer beware !"

A couple of weeks later we traveled to the feed supply down the road from the first one. Once again, we'd had great luck with the hay from this place in the past. They breed and raise Quarter Horses, barrel horses, and the like, so I just knew they would have great hay. Yeah, well, same procedure. We get home, I open up to feed that evening, lo and behold, same type of stuff. My conclusion was that both farms had baled the hay damp.

Now, my horses are what I sometimes refer to as horse-pigs. They will eat just about anything you put in front of them. This summer though, they left so much hay out in the field I knew the stuff was not good quality. I think if it had been dead of winter, they probably would have eaten more of it. As it was, I had tons (it appeared to me) of leftovers even when I cut back.

No one lost weight. These guys are, well, they look well-fed. It actually wouldn't hurt for them to lose a few pounds as I've been told by a vet, a farrier and a few others. I have to say in their defense, they were fatter when I first bought them! I think I've been able to keep them on a more sensible diet! AND, they are getting more excercise this year.

Back to hay. This year, I seem to have found a good supplier of hay, for the moment. I just have to make sure we get back there to get more before everyone else finds out how good it is. This is A1 Timothy and my horses eat every single bit of it left in the field. I've always been told, you know they're getting what they need when they don't leave leftovers. It's obvious to me the first twenty four bales we purchased this summer were not quality, but this stuff is. I sure hope we can get our 100 bales. So far, we've been able to buy 55 bales and are planning to get the next 50 through September. We do it by pick-up truck load. We have a trailer, but Hubby has decomissioned lawn tractor parts stored on it at the moment.

Being a first time horse owner I have learned a great deal the past four years. Much of it by trial and error. Buying and storing hay has been one part of the journey. One day, we're planning to build an extension to our barn to store hay, and it should be big enough to store more than 100 bales. When that happens, I can breathe a sigh of relief. When we have more grass pasture, I can relax, a little. But, all of this takes time. Each year we get a little closer.

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