The rain we had this summer has had a big (negative) impact on hay yields. Some of my friends who grow their own hay have already concluded that they will need to buy some to get them through the winter.
People like me are dreading the surge in prices that usually accompanies a shortage. Two years ago hay reached $10 per bale and you felt lucky to find it. If it gets that costly this winter Freedom will be out with a sign like the one worn by the Palomino!
The trick with hay is to stockpile it now.
- Buying it right out of the field is generally less expensive because it requires less handling by the farmer.
- Feeding the same hay over several months allows you to build your feed regime around your forage (it’s pointless to test hay when it’s gone by the time the analysis gets back)
- Keeping hay consistent is easier on your horse’s digestive system. A sudden change in hay can increase your horse’s risk of colic by nearly 10 times according to a 1999 study of 2,060 horses (Cohen et al.)
Of course, how much you can store depends on how much room you have and storing it properly (How to stack and store hay for the winter). You don’t want to find that your precious hay turned moldy over the winter months.
At our barn, storage is limited. We have room for maybe two tons. Not that much when you have three hay eating machines.
Last winter I made a deal with my local hay supplier that worked really well. I asked them to store two tons for me in reserve. With only two horses to feed, that kept them going until spring and allowed me the time to gradually transition them over to the first cut hay as it came off the field.
This year, we might ask them to store a bit more. I’m not sure that Freedom would be too successful at drumming up business with the sign.