Monday, April 2, 2007


So we finally got some! Rain I mean. Have we needed it! Do you know how hard it is to raise grass fed animals when you don't have rain to give you grass? If you don't have rain---more than likely your neighbors don't either which then makes it hard to buy hay to supplement with. At least we are starting to see some grass cutting beginning around here and ours is slowly growing. But I guess it might be back to having hay in the garage again (and the barn and the driveway under tarps get the picture).

So far, even with the nice inch of rain we received yesterday, we are still down NINE inches for this year already. That's just this year----it's not including last years drought statistics. So hopefully we will be getting more soon. HOPEFULLY the rest of the country will have a better rain year too since we "compete" with them for hay if it gets really bad.

Yesterday when we went to buy feed---we noticed that they had alfalfa cubes again (finally!) Only these cubes are coming from Canada. Not very sustainable is it. We of course bought some---it's what we supplement the cows with to make sure they get good nutrition. That just goes to show you how bad it is when a "major" feed company is getting it's supply from out of the country now. If you think about it---it's still cold there. So someone worked a deal for stockpiled feed. It was 2 dollars a bag cheaper too.
Why are we buying feed you ask since we advocate raising "grass fed" animals? Well that would be because we have had to purchase hay from so many suppliers (at least 7 this year alone) that there is no way to know the quality of the hay or test the quality of any batch you might buy. Liked it? Tough! There's no more once you decide you do and you want to buy more---everyone else figured it out too and they told the others who where looking. So, it's find another supplier and start over again.
Even though it seems simple---making hay is a very complex art form. I know--hard to believe. Just cut it and dry it you say. That's not how it works though. Let me give you a small idea of the complexity--we won't even go into minerals and soil testing that help raise nutrition levels in the grass blades.
First the farmer needs to understand the optimum time to cut. All grasses have periods where the protein level can be high (say 18% on average) and low (tall, stemmy most of the seeds have fallen off to the ground). Basically when the protein is that low---it's just straw. If you don't quite know the difference: hay is grass blades and straw is the stalk of a grass that has grown and gone to seed, then had the seeds removed. As in wheat---after you cut the stalk and thresh off the grain (where all the protein has gone to basically) what you have left is a stalk of straw.
So after deciding the correct time to cut---not to early and not to late---the farmer needs to cut and dry the hay. Dry it too long and the protein levels can be dramatically changed. The sun bleaches vitamins and minerals out too. Leave it to wet and when it's baled---it will mold. A very very dangerous issue for animals. Mold in feed can cause respiratory problems, abortions, ill health and low growth rate. Besides the fact that it is problematic to breath for the farmer feeding it too.
Then the farmer has to store it correctly. We were offered a round bale from last summer for $20 recently (the average price of a fresh round bale is $25- 45 dollars depending on a few issues). We of course didn't take it. Why? It was stored outside. It was practically black on the outside from "composting" in the field. I am sure it would be slimy and bug laden on the bottom---because that is exactly what happens when things compost like that.

All these things contribute to acquiring the "perfect" bale. In years like last year and possibly this one: you grab up as many good ones as you can, when you can, and store them for future use. No chances taken that you will be the one that ends up with the above mentioned $20 bale. In actuality---I would have fed my animals straw first before that bale. Along with some grain (more than I generally feed though)---they would have been just fine. Unlike if they were fed that $20 bale of crudgy hay. Yuk!

So on goes the turning of the world---and the acquiring of hay. Hope everyone has a good day---and pray for some of us to get more rain!


Cheryl said...

Wow, I had no idea making hay was such a complicated process!
I'm glad you're getting some much needed rain. I'd share ours with you if I could!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Yeah, I had no idea that it was so complicated too! And I was recently just wondering what the difference between hay and straw was (for mulching) so I consider myself informed.

Thanks and congrats on the rain!