Monday, February 13, 2012

The Logistics of Hay, Part 3

Some people get hay fever.  I get hay paranoid.

I guess in a normal year I wouldn't be so hay-anxious, but as most of you know firsthand, droughts across the country have been not only sending hay OUT of areas that had plenty of hay, but driving the costs UP.  It's not like our standard operating procedure is to constantly scrounge for hay, or have a J.I.T. kind'a system set up for livestock feed.  On the contrary, I do all I can to cram extra hay and grain in whatever type of storage system I can manage.  But last year we were, well, screwed to put it lightly.  Before the first cutting, we met the guy doing the hay cutting (he cuts & bales for thousands of acres around here) saw the pasture the hay was coming from, agreed that we would buy a trailer load (14 round bales) and he would deliver it (giving him a chance to make some more money, and relieving Paul of having to do it).  I kept in touch with him on a weekly basis.  But there seemed to be never-ending excuses, some of which were obviously true (the drought), but others not so believable.  He promised to call when the bales were ready for delivery.  After not hearing for him for some time, I called him.  He said that he sold everything because he didn't think that the hay would be good enough for us.  What???  To say I was pissed would be an extreme understatement.

So back to our hay acquisitions this past year.  After finding the not-so-much-ours hay was more than likely on it's way to Texas, we were able to get eight not-so-large bales (3'x3' instead of 4'x4'......but for the same price, of course) to add to the two large rounds we had in the barn.  But as the months went by it was obvious that it was going to be a very close call to make it through to the first spring cutting.  My hay panic attacks were back.

So this past fall and winter I have been on a constant lookout for hay.  Or let me be a little more specific; hay that didn't look like it had been sitting out in a field for a year and been used as cattle bedding beforehand.  I couldn't believe the stuff people were selling as "hay".  Maybe sub-par animal bedding, or the makings for a good compost pile, but definitely nothing I would want my animals to be eating.

Two weeks ago I drove by the local feed store and saw that they had several large round bales in the parking lot and about a dozen in the back.  Only a few hours later I drove back by the store and the ones in the front lot were gone.  I immediately called Paul at work and told him that we'd have to make an early morning run the next day to get some hay before the rest were sold.  I called the feed store first thing in the morning only to find out that they were already gone; they sold almost twenty bales in less than 12 hours.

Two days later I was passing the feed store again and went in to get a bag of goat chow.  Not that we were out of goat food, but I figured since I was passing by anyhow I'd just get another bag (and honestly, sometimes I just
gott'a go shopping, even if it's only at the local feed mill).  When I was in there I overheard one of the employees on the phone saying something about a hay delivery first thing Monday morning.  When she hung up, I apologized for my eavesdropping, but said I couldn't help but overhear that there might be more hay in.  She said they were expecting a trailer load, but didn't know what kind of hay nor what the price would be.  Hoping for the best, I said thanks and went on my merry way.  At least there was another chance of us getting more hay.

Monday morning came around and I called the feed store.  They had hay in!  They hadn't had a chance to price it yet, but I told them I'd be right over and wait if I had to.  I packed Rhiannon into the truck and we zipped out to the store and there were already two other customers there for the same reason I was.   I bought three bales of "OK" looking hay for $65 each (last year they were $50 and much better quality).  We patronize that feed store often so they were willing to hold on to them until Paul could pick them up later that evening.  One went into the mule barn, the other two came to the house for the goats  No more 
hauling hay in the back of the car, whoo-hoo!
We really need to get a better storage solution for goat's hay.
So although we may have made it through to the local spring cutting, I feel a hundred times better knowing that we should have a little extra.  The fact that there is now one less goat to feed also helps some.  

Hopefully this year won't be as nerve wrecking as last year.  

And the moral of this story?  Don't count your bales until they're in the barn!


  1. Wow...That is some story. Suprised you all haven't seen price gouging considering the hay is being sold out so quickly. Seems like the "feast or famine" continues. I'm ignorant about hay. How long can you store it before it "goes bad"? Too bad you can't convert more of your land to pasture. I remember a post you wrote awhile ago saying that was the one thing you underestimated when you bought the place.

  2. Wow, that must be a scary feeling to be running short of hay with so many mouths to feed. Glad you were able to snag a few bales.

  3. We've been there~it's an awful feeling. I'm so glad you were able to get some more!

  4. tami, there still seems to be a decent stock of hay just up north of us in Missouri, so I think that's keeping the prices "down" (ha!) around here. And yes, I'll never complain about the price of pasture land! We have plenty land to make into pasture if we want to give up the woods, but I like the woods (and firewood!). Not to mention clearing pasture is taking like forever...even WITH a dozer!

    Charade, technically we don't have "that" many mouths to feed; only one mule, one mini-horse and four goats, but it still worried me. Besides, I can only imagine how others feel when they have like a REAL herd of goats or cattle or sheep to worry about getting hay to.

    Kim, they never tell you about that awful hay-anxious feelings in those homesteading books, do they??

  5. 1988, the year without hay...I know I will never forget that helpless feeling of knowing that I may have to make some choices on which animals lived and which ones I butchered. We butchered every one we could afford to cut and were looking into cutting our breed stock down too. And this was back before highlanders were easy to find in the U.S. The hay fields all needed to be replanted when the rains finally came and THAT almost put us in the poor house.

    I am so sorry you have to go through that. Keep in touch, last year I donated 200 bales for the drought. Wisconsin ended up shipping over a million donated bales to drought area in the south east. We farmers have to stick together, so if you have a hard time next year let me know and I'll see if I have hay to spare--we'll get it down to you.

  6. We *thought* we had put by enough hay to last until spring but have had to buy some twice this winter. The cheapest we can find 100# bales of alfalfa around here for the goats is $17, it's a little over $20 at the feed store. This is at least $5 more than last year. :(

  7. I so relate to this post. I am very lucky, in that I have a source for pretty good hay - small bales - at $3/bale and he has a barn-ful. Even so, I find myself getting very anxious when I'm down to 16 bales. I can get 100 bales packed into the barn if I can also get my farmer neighbor to stack them (he can go 6 high). There is NOTHING like the relief of hay reserves. I hope this year is a lot better for all of us.

  8. Rea, now I feel like such a whiney baby! We didn't have it so bad that we had to butcher any of our animals; I'm sorry to hear you had to go through that. My goal this year though is to downsize (and I already have done a little of that) to what we REALLY need, not what would be NICE to have. And thank you so very much for the offer of sending hay, although I hope to never have to even think of taking you or anyone else up on the offer. Honestly, there are still bales of hay available, but they are the small squares, and they are WAY high priced because even they are getting short on supply so late in the season.

    Candy, the prices just keep going up & up. Hopefully things will look better this spring.

    Susan, I recall several of your Hay-Anxious posts & feel for you every time!

    tami, I really don't know how long hay lasts. I do know that it depends a LOT on how much moisture is in it, how it was kept (outdoors or under cover) what the weather conditions are, etc., but I do know that there are almost-year old bales being sold around here at one point. I think that there must also be some kind of nutritional devaluation as the bales get older. So, what I guess I really should have said to your question was, "I have no idea!" :)

  9. I think about this stuff often even though I live in the city now, I grew up on a farm and now i have blog-friends who are dealing with this and I will be worrying for you, too! This weather has been crazy, and I'm sure the "general public" will be complaining soon when the price of their meat and dairy goes up to compensate for the feed prices, they always seem to be so much louder than the people who "grow" their food, hmmph! I will be saying lots of prayers for you to find quality hay and a fair price for your homestead, and I'll throw a few in for lots of rain and/or snowmelt soon!