One of my biggest concerns all summer long centers around hay. Will the farmer be able to get a second cutting? Our sheep need the second cut hay as it has more leaf than stem and provides for a well balanced diet with high protein. Will the weather cooperate so that the farmer can cut and bale the hay without it getting wet? If the cut hay gets wet in the field, it decreases the nutritional value and it is dangerous to stack wet hay in your barn. Will I have enough money to pay for the hay once the farmer delivers it? All of these questions buzz around in my head all summer long and by September I find I have restless nights of sleep until hay fills my barn.
Hay feeds our sheep and llamas for 7 months out of the year. Without it, our animals can not survive the long winter. Our ewes rely upon getting all of their nutrition from eating second cut hay throughout their gestation so it needs to be high in protein. We like to see the protein level somewhere between 12 and 14%. This provides what the ewes need for their developing lambs.
Hay accounts for our single largest expense for the year. Once all of it gets stacked in the hay loft-I must pay the farmer in one single payment. This year, the hay costs $5.00 per bale. We estimate that each sheep eats approximately 28 bales per winter. This year, we need 400 square bales of hay which brings our total to $2000. All of this money must be paid in full upon delivery.
Today, the farmer brought over our first wagon load of hay along with three of his daughters riding on top of the bales. With their help, we hoisted 98 bales into the hay loft and stacked them in record time. The bales seemed to weigh over 50 pounds each making for tiring work. I marveled at the strength of his daughters as well as my own daughter (Go Anna!). They cheerfully lifted the bales placing them in neat rows in the hay loft. The farmer kept exclaiming over his daughters and what hard workers they were. I could tell that he was quite proud of them and they seemed to want nothing more than to please their daddy and be a help to him.
The next delivery of hay depends upon the weather and when there will be another streak of sunny weather. It takes three days of sun to make square bales of hay thus the saying, “you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.” I will be watching for that next stretch of sunny weather and my next wagon load of hay.