Spent the last couple of days bringing in hay for the year. Last year we brought in 3 ton and ended up having to buy another ton and a half come February. This year we opted to bring in 4 ton. With any luck it should last the sheep at least 8 months.....if not a bit longer. Bucking bales definitely lets you know exactly how old you are! Thankfully these were relatively light bales......65-70 pounds each....with the occasional "heavy" bale. Those were rolled, not carried, into the barn.
This year of bringing in hay was a rather unique experience. We were actually able to see it in the field before it was cut. I had never seen alfalfa in the field before and was surprised to discover that it is a rather pretty little plant that gets purple blooms on it. After the field was cut and baled, we spent the first day of bringing in hay going out in the field and loading it up on the truck. We had never loaded from the field before so it was a new experience for us.....and a rather tiring one. We brought two ton in this way. We were going to bring in all four ton but wanted to make sure the sheep liked it first.....which they did. The second two ton we opted to have delivered for a small fee. We figured we would have spent the money on gas for the truck anyway, so why not give our aging bodies a break and simply have it delivered. It was brought in on a harrow.....which is something I have never seen. I don't think I could describe it even if I had to. All I know is that the harrow is set up to pick up the bales from the field....stack them on the back of the harrow......and then unload them without any physical labor. The machine does it all. Plus you can simply drive it to wherever the hay will be stored. It was pretty neat to see. I'm thinking we will be buying from the same grower next year and hopefully he will be willing to deliver our hay again using the harrow.
Hay around here is at a premium and is relatively hard to find. It's not that less people are growing hay. It's that more growers are finding it economically feasible to haul their crop to the center of the state so it can be shipped overseas and sold.....pretty much leaving the local buyers in the lurch. The growers that are still willing to sell to local buyers have raised their prices to a ridiculous level making it quite difficult for some people to even afford hay. The "stories" going around about people leaving or selling their livestock is unbelievable. I've even heard of people taking their horses up into the forests and simply letting them go because they can't afford to feed them anymore. The livestock auction has been exetremely busy and I've heard that horses can now be bought for as little as $20. I've even heard that the places that usually buy horses for "other uses" have more than they can use and are no longer buying. As for cattle and other livestock.....well, you really don't hear a whole lot about their plight in this time of ridiculously high hay prices. I think it's horses that are being affected the most. I'm just thankful that I can still afford to keep my small flock of sheep in hay. It takes 3 ton of hay to feed one horse for a year. I'm feeding 21 sheep and 1 llama on 4 - 4 1/2 ton a year......just to give a rough idea of how much a single horse requires......and this came from a long-time horse owner. I know I was just floored when I heard how hay is needed just to keep one horse. I do hope that hay prices come down and that more of the local growers will keep their crop here instead of selling it overseas. It doesn't seem fair that so many should suffer just so a few can benefit. There has to be a middle ground somewhere. Let's just hope it is found real soon.