Hay Costs Winter 2016-2017

For those that where reading my blog though-out 2016, you know that we had a major local drought.. not a little drought.. but a zone 3 bright red drought in my area with level 2 drought around us.. up and down the valley, creeks dried out, hydro dams were turned off, and farmers wells ran dry..

We were lucky enough to be loaned a 2000 gallon water cistern and a dear fellow farmer was kind enough to fill it x amount of times over the summer from their well and this allowed us with careful use to run the rest of the farm on the house well without needing to fill it.

The local hay fields took a beating.. over 50 plus percent of the plants died, in some cases even more..  the first cut was less then 50 to 70 percent the normal, and everyone with livestock scrambled talking to suppliers and held their breath..  the second cut was about 50 percent of normal and then the rains came late in the summer and for many.. the still living plants did a push and with a longer cooler fall, most of those local to us did get a third cut (or in many a second cut) of a decent amount but of poor quality.. the balance is off, the plants are off because they need the volume and were racing between rain and fall temps.

Straw is harder this year to come by as well, but no where near as hard as the hay..  we have seen the fall out of the hay shortage in so many ways.. more livestock butchered out, more livestock being sold, horses being moved or taken to sales at prices that are at a faction of what they are worth..

Within the last week alone..

“I am taking a few squares of hay over to a friend, she is out and has X and Y and is trying to find a supplier with costs she can afford”

” my supplier kept saying.. yup, yup and then said.. I only have 15 out of the 60 I normally have for you..  why didn’t the supplier just tell me that he needed to raise the prices from our normal to the average and save the hay for me”

” I only have enough hay till feb and then I am going to need to be trying to bring it in from Quebec”

Now I am very lucky, I do have hay banked.. not just banked for the winter, I have hay banked for the spring as well, (because I need to dry lot my critters while we work to re-do and re-seed the pasture) but trust me.. without deeper then normal pockets this would not be happening as easily for me either.

I am beyond grateful that I have the hay, but I am also well aware each time I pay my hay guy, that this winter is costing much more then normal..  As you can see below, both my boys are very well fleshed, my vet said, they are at good range but she also informed me that both could use 50 to 100 pounds less on their frames..

The expecting momma’s are at the point that they need a bit of daily fodder-sprouted or fermented grains to give them extra calories in smaller packages as they have less room for the hay in their tummies as their babies grow bigger.


Which has lead me to doing a few different things.. Normally I get round bales in winter and I still do and will depending on what is going on.. but I have also been having large square’s dropped off, so that we can control the amount of hay going out, I have done math till my head spins, and then I use my eyes and my ears and my fingers 🙂

Math is the weight of the animals verse what they should be feed daily when figured out by 2 or sometimes being feed 3 times a day..  My eyes on what is leftover as waste by the next feeding, also if you walk up and the critters are all laying down content and chewing cud and don’t care that you popped by for a visit and there is extra to be eaten yet.. clean it up ladies.. (the horses are feed a bit extra in higher feeder) so the sheep can be out and the horses still have a bit to go yet.. very different tummies between these two critters.

My ears because they will let me know if they think feed needs to come a extra hour or two if they are hungry.. I will make sure they are telling the truth and not playing me LOL but its typically true..  and my fingers because you need to get your hands on them, feel their ribs, you want a light covering of flesh but when you run your hands down their sides you want to be able to feel their ribs..  its easier for the horses and goats as you can see it more so but with the sheep for sure, you want to feel their sides at least once a week or twice and make sure they are not hiding a thinning or a fattening under that wool coat of theirs.

dscn0916I have taken to hauling the hay out onto fresh clean snow on banks and dips and other area’s on the farm that need to be re-seeded but will very hard to get done properly when we re-seed in the spring.. this gives them clean eating area, allows them extra feeding space and does a frost seeding in that area for the hay itself. as well as giving that area a light dose of sheep poo..

Normally, I don’t mind if they use a bit of hay as their bedding but not at this years prices.. they are getting light straw bedding with a lot more cleaning then normal. Even the straw is hard to come by, I was lucky enough to get oats straw and this means that when I put out the straw the critters flock to it, and take their time to make sure they get all the bits of goodies left in it.. the chickens get as excited about their straw as they do for their bit of hay..

I feel for everyone with livestock this winter, I know that many are making the hard call on adding more to the freezer, many are cutting out even more basic’s from their own budgets to make this happen for their critters (example, I have a girlfriend that normally goes on a once a year winter trip to a warmer area and this year, no trip, as that money is going into keeping her critters fed, and trust me, she is a frugal person and saves all year long for this one trip)

Many people had to buy hay from out of the area, and then pay the hauling costs on top of that, I know of a number of folks that got their hay from Quebec as even with the hauling costs, they just could not find hay to buy in their own area.

So if you are local an see someone posting that they are selling this or that, in order to keep these ones feed this year, or to make sure that everyone is kept in good shape.. be kind to them.. while there are some that are just using it to their advantage, there are many more that are buying less, eating less and wearing more layers in order to keep their critters feed and looked after this winter. the average large round hay bale runs between 30 to 50 on a normal year.. this year, if you could get it in the fall it was between 80 to 100 and right now, they are between 100-140 with about 120 being the average.. Small squares that are normally 3 to 4 are 7 to 10 per bale.

May everyone looking find the hay they need and may they find it at reasonable prices..

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6 Responses to Hay Costs Winter 2016-2017

  1. Chris says:

    January Greetings! I found your blog via Cecilias KitchensGarden. I am a long time member of the Fellowship of the Farmy! I love reading how others farm and homestead and much admire that you do almost everything on your farm! I was going through your recipes and am very intrigued by your spruce tip recipes. I live in the Pacific Northwest of the US. Washington state and we have a ton of Douglas Fir trees on our property. Can their tips be used instead of spruce…as I don’t have any of them around.
    If you have time, I’d love if you could e-mail me back as I have a few other questions, as well.
    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Chris, Welcome to my little farm, and yes you can use the fir tips instead of the spruce tips, its going to give a slightly different flavour profile but that ‘s fine.. just remember to try different tree’s as each are their own to a point.. its like grape and wine, the top note is there but the underlining notes change tree to tree.. 🙂

      I will send you a note by email

  2. [J] You say your small bale hay costs are up from 3-4 to 7-10. That higher price (£UK equivalent) is what we pay all the time. The reason is that, despite the fact that the one thing that the Outer Hebrides grows well is grass, and the majority of housheolds have crofts, there’s desperately few making hay now (due to depopulation and lack of interest in agriculture), and hay is imported from the mainland, which almost doubles the cost.

    • Thank you for commenting about this, I know that in the drier states in usa, that folks say that is there more normal prices as well. in their case also do to drought, interesting that its because of lack of equipment ad import costs for you.. how long do you need to feed hay for? I believe that you have a longer grazing season then I would but perhaps I am wrong on that?

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