Monday, December 9, 2013

Stocking Up for Winter

On the horse front, I've been scrambling to find hay.  I got down to one bale of grass and three bales of alfalfa.  I called my grass hay farmer and he didn't return my call.  I called a couple more times just to make sure he didn't just get busy and forget about me, but apparently he's not in business at the moment.  Must have run out of hay.  So, I called my alfalfa hay farmer, and arranged to get some wild grass and alfalfa mix and some straight alfalfa, but the straight alfalfa is extremely leafy and rich, so I have to feed it with grass.  I ended up breaking down and ordering a block delivery from a retail feed store.  This late in the year, beggars can't be choosers.

The alfalfa was going to be delivered on Friday, but he got held up and postponed until Saturday.  The feed store wanted to deliver the grass on Saturday too, but I knew that with my lousy luck, both trucks would show up at the same time and one would have to wait for the other, or one would turn away and deliver my hay to someone else.  So, I scheduled the grass delivery for Monday.

My alfalfa hay farmer told me he's cutting back on his customers, because farming is just too much work for him with his other job.  What a bummer.  That's part of why I left my old county.  All the hay farmers were getting out of business and I had no idea how I was going to feed my horses.  There is such a huge horse community here in my new neighborhood that I would think that the demand would keep people in business.  It is a lot of hard work, though, and very time consuming.

My alfalfa farmers are in it more to help out family and friends, so they were pissed when a stranger showed up at their place, bought a bunch of hay, only to return a short time later for more.  They tend to save hay for regular customers, so this man's behavior was suspicious.  It turned out that he drove the first load down the street and sold it for profit.  He wanted to contract with them so that he could keep scalping their hay.  Ugh.  That left a sour taste in everyone's mouths, but I suppose it's no different from what the feed stores do.

I found out that I am one of only five people who my alfalfa hay farmer will deliver to.  I had no idea that he was going so far out of his way to help me out.  He doesn't even charge me for the delivery.  I've told him several times that he should charge me for his gas and labor at the very least, but he won't do it.  He's just a super nice guy.  Once my schedule clears up, I'm going to take him and his wife out to dinner as a big thank you.

Hay prices are all over the map here.  When I feel like I'm paying too much, I just break it down into how much each horse eats a day, and that makes me feel better.  Four horses go through one bale every two days.  If one bale of grass costs $15.50, then that's less than $2 a day to feed each horse.  Not bad.  People easily eat $30 a day in food.  I worry more about availability.  I'm not sure how the horses will feel about eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of hay should all the hay farmers quit their jobs.

Oh, and of course, right after we got our first delivery of hay and before I could buy a new tarp, it rained.  It couldn't possibly be any other way.

We had pulled the old bales and a couple of wet bales aside to cut open and air out by the barn.  The horses figured out that if they got down on their knees and stretched their necks under the railing, they could reach those bales.  The only problem was that the more dominant horse would bite them on the butt while they were snatching a snack, and the horse under the railing would jump up and smash his or her head.  I fixed that by locking all of them out of that stall.

I'm anxious about the grass hay delivery, because I forgot to ask how they deliver.  I assumed they would bring it in on a trailer, because that seems to be the way most people do it around here.  One or two strong men show up and move each bale one-by-one off the trailer into the hay barn.  It's an event.  However, if the feed store brings the block in on a squeeze, they won't be able to set it down in the hay barn, because the alfalfa and mix are taking up most of the space.  I searched the yard for a flat high spot were we could keep a block out of the path of flood waters, but still close enough to the hay barn where we can move the bales one-by-one into it.  There aren't a whole lot of options.  In fact, the most convenient location for the squeeze driver would be to set it down directly in front of the barn, but that is the lowest, wettest spot on our property, besides the arroyo.

Even if they do bring the hay on a trailer, I don't think they will be able to stack it high enough without having to leave some bales out to be covered with a tarp.  I don't have extra pallets to set them on, so I may just lay out a bunch of rocks to elevate the bales.  Since people are already running out of hay, and my alfalfa farmer says he's usually out in January, I had to make sure I had enough to last four horses through to June.  Well, I guess I'll find out soon enough how this hay arrangement will unfold.


Tina said...

There is always alfalfa cubes. That's what I feed my horses. I get hay bales too but only for their boredom.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Tina - Well, I wouldn't say ALWAYS. I looked for alfalfa cubes in four different feed stores in three different cities at one point in time and they were all out.