Where's The Hay?


hay feeding area
Looking down into their winter barn - it's nice to be able to throw hay down to them!

One of my most important tasks on the farm is to make sure that my animals have good and appropriate feed. This is relatively simple during the warm months because they are out on pastures. My main chore is to make sure they are moved to another area before they eat everything down to the dirt, but since their main pasture is 15 acres and I have less than two dozen animals, this is rarely an issue – they rotate themselves over the entire area as the summer progresses.

But while they are out eating the green grass, I’m thinking about the coming winter. Frankly, with the way our southwest Ohio winters have been over the last few years, I’m never quite sure what is going to come at us! Last year, they were on grass until December 22. I could have kept them out there longer (they did have shelters, which were used almost exclusively by the goats. The Shetlands were not fazed at all by the colder temperatures!), but we got several inches of snow, making it more difficult for them to paw through to the grass underneath. At that point, I led everyone to the main barn, where they spent the next few months filling their bellies with hay and checking the adjoining pasture for any fresh grass that was brave enough to sprout.

This year, I noticed people starting to get their hay mowed the first week of June. The weather had been just about perfect – chance of rain (as there usually is around here during the late spring/early summer), but nice warm days with some breeze. That got me a bit antsy as to when our hay would be mowed. Instead of us mowing our east hayfield and the “hay guy” mowing the other hay fields, we had decided to have him mow everything. He would be here anyway, and since his equipment is a size bigger than what we have, it would get done a lot faster. But as a custom farmer, we were obviously not the only farm on his schedule, so I not-so-patiently waited.

A string of nice days, no hay mowing. Got word that he might arrive the next afternoon, but it was forecast to rain for the next couple of days. He didn’t, it rained, and now the ground and grass were wet – need to let everything dry out. By this time, I’ve convinced myself there will be a blizzard next week and I don’t have any hay in the barn except a few round bales of two-year-old hay, and my sheep and goats are going to starve (ok, not that last part, but there were only five 4x4 round bales left!).

upright round hay bales
Old hay ready to be fed first when the weather turns cold

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