Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hay enough for winter

Last August when we stacked our barn with the hay which was cut and baled on some neighboring land, we knew we didn't have enough to get us through the winter.

But some other neighbors had grown some timothy on their land for their horses. Timothy is an outstanding grass hay, very nutritious and -- if the livestock's reaction indicates anything -- apparently very tasty as well. These neighbors had about twelve extra tons they didn't need, so we made arrangements to buy it.

But things kept getting in the way of fetching it into our barn. Our busy season. Broken-down equipment. Bad weather. A bout of the flu (for our neighbors). It was one thing after another.

But today, at last, everything jelled and we could bring the hay into the barn and under cover. It was a day of screaming wind and chilly temps, but at least it was dry and sunny.

First thing we did was peel back the fencing between our properties.

The operation took two tractors and a trailer. Here our neighbor (Bryce) drivers his tractor and trailer loaded with eight bales. The bales weigh about 550 lbs. each, and there were 45 to move.

We had already cleaned out the barn to make room. Here two of our four scythes (used last summer to harvest the wheat) are hooked on the girts against the wall.

The second tractor in use during this operation was loaned by our sainted and patient friends Mike and Judy. Bryce had attached two forklift tines to the bucket, and he proceeded to remove the bales from the trailer and stack them in the barn.

Because of the wheelwells on the trailer as well as the tendency for the bales to get pushed away from the tines, it was often easier to just shove the bales off the trailer, then go around and pick them up from the ground.

Other times he was able to slide a bale up in the air without any problem.

Gradually the stacks built up.

Last bale.

Barn, before:

Barn, after. Enough hay to last us through late spring, at least.

As the sun went down...

...our neighbor pulled together and re-affixed the fence between our properties.

It was Robert Frost who said, "Good fences make good neighbors." Our fences may not be the best, but our neighbors sure are.


  1. Now that is a great example of *neighbor* Helping each other out but not living in each others pockets

  2. I have to ask. What is the advantage to such large square bales? When I was younger, we used to use the small square bales. But when my dad had saved enough money for a tractor, we went to the round bales and never looked back. With the round bales, you can roll them. With the small square bales, you can throw them. So what is the advantage to the large ones? Is there less waste with them? Just curious.

    1. Unfortunately, most farmers have transitioned to large bales because they have the mechanized equipment to move them around. Such bales are wonderful for large feed operations. But if you're small potatoes like we are, small bales are MUCH easier to handle and that's what we prefer. However finding farmers with such "old fashioned" equipment (since we don't have baling equipment or a working tractor) is next to impossible these days. We were fortunate to find a local fellow who are able to mow and bale some neighboring land in small bales.

      - Patrice

  3. Beautiful pictures of hard work and cold weather. Stay warm!

  4. I remember my Grandaddy Joe with one of the small bales in each hand, tossing them up to the 2nd floor of his barn, where a high school guy would then stack them. There I was, 9 years old, heaving and straining to pick up even one.

    - Charlie

  5. Glad to hear everything fell together. Congratulations!
    Have a blessed week. ♥

  6. doesn't it just give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside when you have enough hay to keep the animals fed. I love it when we get hay and feed (oats/corn) in barrels in the barn!!!

  7. Hi Patrice! You have wonderful neighbors! This is our first year over wintering animals. We are buying hay, and had 50 bales delivered tonight. 50 more on another not so wet and soggy day. We have no idea how much hay we should buy or even how to guess since our 2 jersey yearlings and 4 sheep have been out to pasture since we've had them. Do you have any recommendations on how much to store up or where on line to find out numbers? We havent had snow yet here (Upstate NY) but the grass isn't growing quite fast enough any more. We've had a couple weeks of frost now too. It is all a learning experience for us, but we would really rather prefer to not have to buy more hay come mid winter. Thanks for the advice!

    Learning in NY

    1. For cattle, the rough rule of thumb is each animal needs between 1.5% and 3% of body weight each day. I would estimate on the high side since you live in a cold climate and animals stay warm through the digestive process. Lactating cows need more hay (and perhaps a touch of grain). A thousand-pound animal, for example, would eat 30 lbs. of hay a day. We do morning and afternoon feedings, so for a 1000 lb animal, that's 15 lbs per animal twice a day.

      In our climate, we estimate feeding the cattle from late October (we've already started feeding) through late May.

      I don't know about sheep so you'll have to look up the stats for them, but try estimating the combined body weight of all your critters and tucking away as much hay as you think you'll need for however many months you plan to feed them. We don't get enough serious greening in north Idaho to turn the animals loose on the pasture until late May, so we store hay to last that long... though toward the end of that time they're grazing a lot in the woods and we're just supplementing with hay.

      Hope this helps!

      - Patrice

    2. Thanks Patrice! It helps a ton! :)