Spring is around the corner! Sort of! Supposedly! At least according to the calendar. A couple weeks shy of the spring equinox is a good time to stand in the hay loft and see how the supply worked out. And make sure you’re not in trouble. I did a post here on how to plan for how much hay you need to get through a winter. I like to have a little more than enough. It’s good to have a small supply left over at the end of the winter. You never know when an animal might need to be temporarily stalled for some reason after grass is growing, so you want to have some hay on hand to feed them in case of that necessity, but you don’t want to have a whole big stack that’s going to go to waste. Hay is money, and it’s a perishable product. (Okay, it’s preserved grass, meant to last–but through a winter, not forever. Its nutritional value decays over time.)
With the help of hired men and teenagers, I hauled in nearly 700 bales of hay last summer. Some was stored downstairs in the barn in a couple of places, while 500 bales were stuffed in the loft.
The hay elevator got a workout.
If you missed this video, this is a fun one, getting hay.
Getting hay is one of my favorite things to do. It’s like a lost American pastime! And sure, I hire people to do the heavy lifting, but I work it, too–and enjoy it. From the hay man counting the hay to the men packing it on the truck beds to the teenagers shoving bales onto the elevator, there’s a sense of working together and camaraderie to it. It’s hot and sweaty and fun–if you make it fun. There’s talking and laughing and riding on the wagon or up the elevator. There’s picking hay out of your hair and a sense of accomplishment when it’s all done. A hay day is a day well spent–and a good tired.
Cats sleep in the hay all winter. Chickens lay eggs in the hay. And I feed it out, a bale at a time, several bales a day, to the goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, and cows. So how’s my supply doing?
I’ve got a bit more hay than you see here–some is still stored downstairs in the barn and some is stored at the horse shelter, but I have approximately one-quarter of the loft still packed. I didn’t actually count the bales left, just estimated based on knowing what was in the loft and how much of the loft hay remains.
I think I’ve got a solid 100 or so bales. It’s March, and while the month has started cold and snowy, it won’t stay that way. Warmer weather is coming. All of the animals except the cows are on pasture already. Livestock will choose fresh grass over dried any day. Keeping animals on pasture during the winter prevents them from binging suddenly on fresh grass in the spring. They start eating grass a little at a time, while still eating hay, slowly adjusting their systems to the change. And slowly decreasing the amount of hay fed out. As the weather warms up, I’ll watch the grass, watch how much they’re browsing, and gradually reduce hay. If we have a lot of bad weather in March or even into April, I’ll keep feeding out the hay as needed. I feel comfortable with my supply. I think I have enough to get them through if we do have a lot of bad weather still coming, and just enough to expect a small emergency supply left over for any temporarily stalled animals later in the spring.
Before I know it, the next hay season will be on me and I’ll be climbing in the back of a truck bed on top of bales and picking hay out of my hair. I can’t wait!