Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spending some time with the herd & hay

The cows enjoying their lunch
 I haven't spent any time talking about the cows recently; they're alive and well and eating to beat the band.  The picture above is the feeding area, which is floored with plastic pallets, which keeps the hay up off the ground and means that most of the hay goes into the cows mouth, which is always good.  I'm looking foward to seeing more grass growth before I turn the herd loose on it, and it's starting to grow in earnest now. 
Smells great; like late summer
 This particular batch of hay is orchard grass, and it's pretty good quality.  It's fine and consistent, no seed heads or stems, and absolutely dry.  You can spend an awful lot on hay if you want to; this same hay, baled in small square bales and purchased retail, runs between $16 and $17 a bale around here; figure $350 a ton, which I consider pretty steep. 
2600lbs of hay being put on the trailer
 I buy all of my commodities in as big a quantity and package as I can.  In this case, I buy the hay in 1300lb big square bales.  I park the trailer near the feeding area and just take flakes off the bales to feed the cows.  I've been thinking my cows need some more nutrition, so I've been giving them some alafalfa (lucerne to you european readers) as well as the grass hay.  Purchased in large bales, the hay or alfalfa run $200/ton, picked up at the farm.  It's a 4 hour round trip, and takes $100 in fuel, so my delivered cost for 6.5 tons of hay is about $1400, a little more than 1 cow sells for at auction; call it 1.2 cows worth of hay. 

 When I buy hay I always look at it prior to pickup.  Quality varies, and conditions vary, and I look for signs of mold or dust, weeds, or anything other than straight, good quality forage.  This load looked great. 
I have to be careful on feeding alfala to the cows; they do love it, but the danger is that they'll stuff themselves on it and founder -- alfalfa is cow candy.  Don't want them to get a stomach ache.  So I usually put the alfalfa down first, and then grass hay on top of it.  they fill themselves with the grass and then top off with alfala. 


George said...

Dang that is some pricey orchard grass on the west coast !!! Our farm in MD sells organic round bales of alfalfa/orchard grass mix for $170/Ton. Has hay been this high in recent years in Washington?

Bruce King said...

The prices quoted are for small square bales at the local feed store, retail. They'll give you a little bit of a break if you buy a ton, or a truckload, but not much.

This is for eastern washington hay, which locals consider to be higher quality than western washington. Has to do with different field conditions; eastern washington is mostly irrigated fields, and gets a lot more sun and heat than Western Washington. When they want to hay they turn off the irrigation. Western Washington has very few windows you can hay in, and you see a lot of really stemmy first cutting, and some fairly good second cutting, occasionally third cutting...

It's pretty common to get 4 cuttings a year in eastern washington, so you'd think that the hay would be cheaper, but a lot of it goes out of the country. Seattle is a huge shipping town, so all the stuff we buy from china comes into the country in containers, and the containers are shipped back full of hay. We sell a lot of hay to japan and taiwan. Keeps the price up.