Friday, July 20, 2012

Time to Get a Pitchfork

Believe it or not, I still haven't finished feeding the bales of alfalfa/grass mix to my horses that I trailered in from Nevada.  I've been alternating between feeding that and feeding the new Arizona grass and alfalfa to slowly acclimate the horses' digestive tracts to the change, even though they were eating a completely different Arizona alfalfa and grass bought from different suppliers at the boarding facility.

Lostine did start manufacturing wet, sloppy cow patties while being boarded, and the barn owner told me that I really shouldn't feed Arizona alfalfa to my horses, because it's really only cow quality.  I know from experience to listen to what everyone has to say, but take it with a grain of salt and talk to others on the same topic.  I had already arranged for an alfalfa delivery from a friend, and wanted to give her stuff a try.  Maybe the alfalfa that the barn owner was buying was cow quality, but I knew that my friend supplies alfalfa to horse owners all the time.  If these people keep coming back for more, it can't be causing cow patties in horses.

So, when I started feeding my horses my Arizona alfalfa, the problem cleared up.  No more splatting.  Just thudding.  That's good news, because my horses love alfalfa and would probably hate me for putting them on a pure grass diet.

I noticed one big difference between the hay in Nevada and the hay in Arizona.  Obviously, Northern Nevada gets much more rain and snow, so while the hay farmers try to control how much moisture gets into the hay at the time they bale it, sometimes they end up with more moisture than they bargained for.  I remember calling for hay once and being told that it had been cut, but couldn't be baled because of a rainstorm.  He said, "If you are desperate, I can bale just a few for you, but you'll have to cut them open at your place and feed them fast before they mold."

We had a serious problems with moldy hay between the weather, not having a hay barn, getting holes in our hay tarps, and me only ordering a huge block every six months.  My neighbor changed her habits, because she was sick of having to throw out moldy hay.  She cut a deal with a young couple that she would board their horse for free if they would pick up a load of fresh hay every weekend and deliver it to her farm for her.

Here in Arizona, I was warned by the hay farmers that the hay was on the dry side.  I don't know if they meant just with this cutting or all the time, but they weren't kidding.  Despite all those monsoon storms coming in sideways and soaking my bales, every bale I cut open is dry.  I guess the sun always wins out in Arizona.

So, I have some feeding time routines I need to work out.  With the Nevada mix, I could just grab a slice or flake and toss it over the top of the barn railing into the feed bins, never having to enter the barn and risk having a horse bust out the gate and get loose.  The entire flake was still moist and packed tight, so nothing fell off it onto the ground as I carried it in my hands from the hay barn to the horse barn.

However, with the Arizona alfalfa slices and grass slices, as soon as I touch a slice or flake, it falls apart in my hands and ends up all over the ground.  If it's windy, it just blows away, which is painful to see knowing how much I'm paying for all that hay.  So, I wheel the wheelbarrow right up to the bale, and sweep a chunk of it with my arm into it.  Then I wheel the hay over to the horse barn, but usually the hay keeps sliding off the top and spilling onto the ground as I go, so I have to keep stopping to scoop that back up.

If I throw a handful over the top rail, it ends up in my hair, my eyes, my mouth, and down the front of my shirt, so I have to push handfuls through the fence railings into the food troughs.  The railings on the barn are close together to prevent horses from rubbing their manes off, so I can only get small handfuls of hay at a time through the fence.  It takes ten times longer to feed the horses that way.

Also, the railings have this weird reddish black coating on the iron that rubs off onto you if you touch it, so I usually come away with gunk all over my arms.  This morning I accidentally snagged a piece of baling twine on my glove and it ended up in Bombay's mouth.  My friend had to have one of those surgically removed from her horse's intestines, so I launched my body through the railings trying to grab the baling twine while Bombay was sucking it into his mouth like a spaghetti noodle.

I kept grabbing and missing, and he kept backing away from me, and I kept pushing my body further until my hips were wedged between railings.  Bombay realized he wasn't eating hay, and spit out the twine.  I grabbed it and worked my way out of my predicament only to come away with black gunk all over my shirt and jeans.

So, I'm going to have to figure out a better feeding routine.  I suspect I will have to first enter the gate with a long whip and chase the horses away, and then pull the wheelbarrow of hay through.  Then use a pitchfork to move the hay from the wheelbarrow into each food trough, because too much ends up on the ground when I try to use my hands.  I don't know if a pitchfork would be any better, though.  I'll probably just tilt the wheelbarrow up and sweep some out with my arm into each food trough.  At any rate, it's going to require more training of the horses to not let them crowd me while I'm in the barn.  Gabbrielle is bad about kicking out at Bombay during feeding time and I don't want to get caught in the middle of that.  I guess I'll have to speak firmly and carry a big stick.

4 comments:

the draogns rock said...

HAY NETS!!!

Get half a dozen haynes!! You can fill them up and have a couiple of feedings worth ready.

I used a snap to attach the hang rope to the bottom ring of the hay net: wrp several times and then clip to secure.

Works like a charm to keep the hay contained and not blowing away in the the wind!!!

Used haynets for years and LOVE them!!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

My husband, who served in the military on a ship, informed me that the reddish black gunk is indeed rust. I was hoping for a low-maintenance or no maintenance barn and fence, but I guess every material that's strong enough to house horses needs work. So, it looks like we're going to have to paint the barn and fence every year just like we did with the wood barn and fence.

sydney K said...

The gunk is rust. You can however take a grinder with a wire wheel and whisk it off where you feed in just a couple minutes. I got pipe back home from the big tube factory outside of town and sometimes it was coated in a kind of oil to prevent it from rusting.

achieve1dream said...

I was going to say hay nets too. In fact hockey nets have become really popular recently because they have smaller holes so the hay doesn't fall out and it also takes the horses much longer to eat so it more naturally mimics grazing/browsing which keeps them busy all day and prevents them from being bored. It might be worth a shot because then the wind can't blow away. Then you could fill the net at the barn and toss it over the bars into the stall and tie it off. You wouldn't get it all over you and you wouldn't have to go inside the pen. Good luck figuring something out! I've had those problems with really dry bales too.