Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bucking bales

Here's my winter hay supply, stacked in the hay barn.  The barn itself is 20' high, and open on all sides.  This stack is 800 bales, about 75lbs per bale, for a total of about 30 tons of hay.  The hay is a mix of local grass and timothy, and it was cut and baled about a mile from my farm.  I like to patronize other local farmers as much as I can.  You'll notice that there's some loose hay on the stack, to the right in the photo.  You always break a bale or two when you're stacking or loading hay, and I hate to waste even that little bit, so I tossed it up there and will use it first to feed or bed animals. 
I use my three-axle equipment trailer to get the hay out of the field.  I'll tow it down behind my picking, and then have two or three guys toss the bales onto the trailer.  We go 6 bales high, which makes the trailer about 14' tall, and usually stack 160-170 bales per load.  So it took 5 trailer loads to put away enough hay to feed all of the animals from october to march or april of next year. 

Note to self:  Buy a hay elevator next year.  tossing the bales up 10' sucks. 

The price of hay has decreased in the last two years; but even so, there's lots of horse owners that are abandoning their animals because their feed bill is too high.  With farm animals -- like beef cattle -- people who can't afford to feed them either sell them or eat them.   Different deal with horses; horse slaughter for human consumption was outlawed in the united states in 2006, and it's been illegal to use horses for dog food since 1972, and that's pretty much meant that there is no economical way to get rid of a horse.  So people let them starve, or turn them loose on indian reservations, or put them in someones pasture.  It's becoming a bigger problem each year.

With local hay, that i'm picking up and stacking myself, my costs are minimal.  Total cost per bale stacked in the barn with hired labor is $3.50 a bale, or roughly $110/ton.  I use about 80% as feed for pigs/cows/sheep, 20% as bedding.  At $3.50 a bale, it's much cheaper than straw single-bales. 

Another way to buy hay cheaply is in the big round or big square bales.  I prefer the small squares because I'm feeding or using small quantities.  But if I get more sheep I'll probably switch to large round, that being what is produced around here. 


Anonymous said...

A lot of horses are sent out of the country to be slaughtered.

Chad said...

Bruce - how do you calculate your hay needs for the winter? With just a few critters, I don't use a lot of hay, so not a big deal for me, but I'm curious what you do. I go through about a bail every 2 weeks in the winter - so picking up a few bails at the feedstore down the hill (I live just a mile from the monroe fairgrounds) is no big deal - but I could stand not to have to pay their kinda high price... This winter will have some pigs on hand, one more goat to feed, and MAYBE a couple new sheep.


Anonymous said...

No problem slaughtering or eating horse here - it is available in the supermarket. It surprises you first time you see it.