I continue to learn new things about which I previously had no concept. Who knew there was so much to learn about a simple three letter word: hay.
I previously blogged about our first crop of hay back in early August. We're hoping to get another cutting of the Sudan grass mix before the season is over. In the mean time we've been scraping up what little cash is available and buying hay here and there. Part of the weekend activities will include "putting up" 110 bales of and orchard grass mix, as well as 40 or so bales of Alfalfa. The Alfalfa, a legume, is a much more nutrient rich hay when compared to a grass hay like orchard grass. Less of it can be fed relative to the grass hay for the same amount of nutrition. In addition to the sweet feed grain we feed our horses Jennifer estimates we'll need somewhere around 1000 square bales to make it through the winter. This presents challenges on many fronts.
The most obvious challenge is the amount of money required to keep our animals in good health. We've put the feelers of our extensive family network out and have managed to find a good deal here and there, but we're still not completely prepared for the winter. Considering the drought conditions the area has experienced, hay is becoming increasingly expensive. In some of the local markets Alfalfa is bringing close to $8.00 a bale! We have lucked into some bales of grass hay for as low as $2, but anything times a 1000 is expensive in my book.
Another challenge is the storage. Jennifer spent much of last week cleaning out some very old hay that was in the barn when we bought the place. Our neighbor estimated some of it had been in there approaching a decade. Jennifer discarded the bales that had mold on them into a large pile to compost down. There were still several bales of Alfalfa that appear to be good. My wife decided to keep those bales and let the horses pick through them.
Her barn cleaning efforts will give us space to store another 400 or so bales but that is clearly not enough to keep the 1000 or so we'll need. It appears the shop building may be utilized for some storage space and a lean-to might need to be constructed. Yet another project to add to the list. If it comes down to it I'm sure we'll be able to borrow some space from our neighbor, but that's not something I want to impose on him if at all possible. One of his hay barns is currently where our 16' flat bed trailer loaded with the 110 bales sits protected from the weather and waiting to be put up in our barn, which brings up the final challenge, time.
I'm looking forward to my next anniversary at work (next summer) when I'll get the coveted third week of vacation. That'll help get some of the projects that have stalled simply because I'm not at home enough. "Putting up" bales, the act of unloading and stacking the hay for storage takes time, and we've been using our neighbors generosity and his barn to store the trailered hay until I can find time to unload it all.
Some day we'll have to purchase our own tractor which will solve many of the aforementioned challenges. If we had a tractor we could handle round bales of hay, which are cheaper than the square bales (by cost per volume). Additionally, round bales are ok, for a period, in the weather. When round bales are rained on they tend to shed the water off the sides. Some of the bale deteriorates but a high percentage of it is usable. Square bales, on the other hand will get soaked straight through and will quickly mold. Not something you would want to feed to your animals. Additionally, handling bales of hay with a tractor is much easier on the back than loading, unloading, and stacking by hand!
Our neighbor just recently finished his hay-related activities for the year and I had a long and interesting conversation about the process of mowing, tetting, raking, then finally bailing hay. I'll have to save that for another post.
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