Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Making hay when the sun don't shine

Guess what I was doing when the BSC Championship kickoff was taking place? I was snipping twine from a new round hay bale.

When the weather dips below 30 degrees, I worry about my outside critters. I don't have a real barn, just two doorless stalls and a couple of run-in sheds to accommodate my three horses and two llamas, and my late neighbor's aged horse, donkey and nanny goat. It's enough to keep them out of the wind. Most of the horses grow furry coats in the winter, anyway, and my llamas think they’re back in the Peruvian Andes during this type of weather.

Eating hay helps keep the animals warm. If I had been smart, I would have planted some winter rye, but I wasn't and I didn't, so I'm having to buy hay again this winter. Square bales weren't lasting very long, and I could see that they really needed two or three bales per day. That's $10 to $15 per day. So I bought a round bale for $50, delivered. I knew I could get it cheaper, but I'm loyal to my hay supplier, who made sure I had hay during the drought a few years ago. 

We put the bale under one of my sheds to keep it out of the rain. Wet hay can get moldy, and horses can't eat moldy hay. I didn't have a round-bale feeder to contain the hay, and didn't want to buy one until I could see how long the round bale would last. I knew there would be some waste because the horses would scatter the hay. I didn't realize that when horses scatter it, they also pee and poop in it. They won't eat the spoiled hay, and I can’t say that I blame them, so about a fourth of the first round bale was wasted. I spent two hours cleaning up that mess so I could set up a feeder and get a second round bale.

When I trudged through the woods to feed yesterday morning, I discovered that the entire second bale was gone. They had eaten it all in seven days. That's when I called my neighbor's daughter and asked for help. Her husband offered to buy the next bale, but I needed it right then. So he called his next door neighbor, and after dropping his son off at ball practice (in this weather???) around 6 p.m., he picked up the hay and delivered it to my house.

It took me a few minutes to remove the strips of pink twine that encircled the hay bale. Horses have a nasty habit of accidentally swallowing baling twine and forming calcium rocks around the twine, necessitating expensive surgery to save their lives. And it took me several more minutes to figure out how to secure the gate because the “lock,” a double-end snap connected to a chain the size of Alaska, and just as cold, wouldn't budge. My fingertips were freezing inside my gloves, and I couldn't manage the chain and hold the flashlight at the same time.

By the time I walked back to my house, I had missed the BSC championship kickoff. That’s okay. I enjoyed the game more (despite the outcome)  knowing my critters were warm and well-fed. 

I slept better, too.

1 comment:

  1. I spent much of that afternoon sealing my chicken pen and installing a small heater. They might have been OK, but like you I try to take good care of my outside critters.