Sunday, August 29, 2010

In Our Hay Day

When you homestead it’s not just vegetables you need to put up for the winter. You have to fill the barn with enough hay to keep the animals fed. The Shetland sheep and Dwarf Nigerian goats we raise can sustain themselves on grass hay, the lowest nutritional valued hay, but it’s getting hard to find around here. We don’t have enough pasture to cut our own, so we buy ours from a local farmer. This year we ended up finding an orchard grass/alfalfa mix hay for a reasonable price and were thrilled to also be able to get straw from the same guy. One stop shopping.

I realize that unless you were raised on a farm or have raised animals at some point, you probably don’t even realize there is a difference between straw and hay. Most people don’t. So I’ll show you. Then you can mark that learn-something-every-day task off your list for today.

The yellow bales near the cab of the truck are straw. The green stuff near the back is hay.


Straw is yellow. It is the hollow stalk of wheat that is leftover in the field after the wheat berries have been harvested. It is used for animal bedding or mulch. It could be eaten, but animals don’t really like it much.


Hay is greenish brown and often looks leafy. It can be a combination of different grasses and legumes that are cut, dried, baled and stored as food for winter. Animals love hay. Animals will knock you down and stomp on your face to get to hay. Trust me on that one.


A farmer needs to store hay where the animals can’t get to it and where it can stay dry. If it gets wet it will mold and rot and become inedible. Now that the barn renovations are mostly complete we can keep ours in the new hay lofts in the center section of the barn. The truck fits in there so well it looks like we planned this, eh?


The lofts are located on either side of the truck and bales can be lifted up and put in place directly from the bed of the truck. It helps to have a teenager handy. They’re inherently good at loading hay.


It’s a dirty and dusty job though. Wearing a mask is a good idea to prevent breathing the dust. It also helps to filter the teens whining. ;-)


The goats are going to live in the old sheep shack in the south pasture this winter though, which means some of the hay needs to be stored out there in the old mini barn. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get the truck near there.


So the hay has to be unloaded and hauled to the site on a garden cart.


If you are just planning your homestead keep Hay Day in mind and make sure you have easy access to the hay storage. Otherwise you may end up with men folk who at the end of the day say they don’t care for the goats as much as they used to.

DSC_5860 “Hey now, I’m not the one who built the shack all the way out there.”



A Brit in Tennessee said...

I've spent many a long, dusty hour stacking bales of hay in the loft.
It's a necessary evil..
Still to this day, I enjoy the sweet smell of hay, it takes me back to my youth.
Love the pictures, the goats are so cute !

Milah said...

I love the smell of a barn full of hay.

cindy said...

Goood description of hay and straw. So many people don't know the difference.

I'm a beginning farmer with my husband. I think I could learn alot from you.


Michelle said...

A bit more education for those who want it. Most of the straw around here is what's left over from the harvest of oats and grass seed. The oat straw makes good bedding; the grass straw used to be burned, but that's restricted now. Some of it is infiltrated with urea and fed to cows; the urea adds to the available protein. Cows can utilize the cellulose in straw to obtain some nutrition, whereas horses and sheep cannot.

Unfortunately, sometimes grass straw is sold as cheap "hay" and bought by uneducated backyard horse owners, who then have to call my vet husband when their horses get "grocery disease" - in other words, they are starving to death....

Chai Chai said...

We have 200 bales of hay on the way, although we do not have as easy an access to our lofts as you do.

Christine said...

Thanks Michelle,

Makes sense that you would have oat straw out there vs wheat. One of the reasons grass hay is so hard to find around here is because of all the horse farms. Almost all the grass has been converted to alfalfa. I'm sure I'm referred to as "the crazy lady with the sheep" throughout the neighborhood after asking around for grass hay. LOL

Michelle said...

Out here grass hay is more popular than alfalfa with more horse horse owners, especially if they can get 2nd or 3rd cutting out of eastern or southern Oregon. Most horses aren't getting worked hard enough to justify alfalfa; it's just too "hot" for most horses.

Kim said...

Hey, I never thought about muffling whining of teens with dust masks! I need to put those on my Home Depot shopping list.