Hay, Oy Vey!

Margali

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So I'm about to get my first sheep. 🥳 So locating feed, minerals, etc.

Now I started looking at hay and I'm totally confused. Locally round bales are $30 -$75 and square bales are $5 -$23 each. I found some weight guides for bale size so I have estimated $/lb.

Can anyone explain: 1st cut, 2nd cut, horse hay vs cow hay? Costal, pasture, Sudan? So confused...

How much hay should I have for 3 adults plus 1-3 babies? I'm south of fort worth tx and I have about 8 acres of grass.
 
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Alaskan

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So I'm about to get my first sheep. 🥳 So locating feed, minerals, etc.

Now I started looking at hay and I'm totally confused. Locally round bales are $30 -$75 and square bales are $5 -$23 each. I found some weight guides for bale size so I have estimated $/lb.

Can anyone explain: 1st cut, 2nd cut, horse hay vs cow hay? Costal, pasture, Sudan? So confused...

How much hay should I have for 3 adults plus 1-3 babies? I'm south of fort worth tx and I have about 8 acres of grass.
How much you want to buy ....

Depends on how easily you can store the hay, and how easy it is to buy hay in your area. Storing hay in that loafing shed, I would be a bit worried about long term storage. (I am a HUGE worrier about hay stocks. So I love my elevated hay loft in the barn. Great ventilation, no sunlight, low moisture. In a situation like that hay keeps its nutrition for a long time. I would buy enough hay for about 1.5 years at a time, all directly from the field since that was least expensive).

Ok... so.... not sure how long I would be comfortable storing hay in that shed. Depends on how much the sun hits your stack, and how often rain will blow in and hit the hay. If you figure out how to block out all rain and sun from the hay... then I would buy enough for a year... if it fits(not fully dry and stacked tight can cause a fire).

A quick Google gave me 4 pounds of hay per sheep per day... you have 3, with maybe lambs, but also pasture... so I would pick 4x4 then x3 months for your "winter" x30 for days in a month, and get just under 2,000 pounds. If you aren't as easily freaked out as I am, and have easy access to hay, or just aren't so sure about your storage, then cut that number way down. Buy 4 small squares and see how it goes.

But on to prices and info:

Cow hay = lower quality since cows are EXCELLENT at turning low quality feeds into nutrition.

Horses have an inferior digestive tract and as a result need feed that is much higher in nutrition than cows. Horse hay= better quality, more nutritious hay.

Sheep and goats have great digestive tracts, set up like a cow, not a horse. However, being smaller than cattle, their rumen is not as large so not as efficient. As a result they do need better quality feed than cattle, but are not as troublesome as horses.

Prices for bales vary as to:
-How weedy is the field
-How much dirt or sand was kicked up into the bale
-was the field fertilized, so had greener, leafier, younger, more nutritious growth
-how well was the hay dried before being baled (is the bale green or brown)
-how good was the timing of the cutting? (You want to cut the hay before the seeds shatter, right when they pop out)
-and yes, the weight, how much you are buying
-if you pick it up in the field, if it has been stored, and for how long it has been stored.

Guides for how heavy a bale should weigh, mean almost nothing.. it varies from producer to producer (what equipment they are using) as well as what they are growing (some hay is just heavier), and how much moisture is still in the bale (water weighs a bunch). So, you need to ask what the weight is each time you are looking at a set of hay.

Round bales (if you are talking big rounds) are hard to handle without machinery of some kind. Also, if they weren't perfectly dry, you don't know until you finally get to the now moldy core.

I like small squares since you can easily stack them by hand. You can easily crack one open to see if it is full of sand, dirt, or mold, before buying a huge load.

The things like coastal, Sudan, pasture is WHAT was bailed, the kind of plant. "Pasture" isn't a specific plant, and usually means a mix of stuff growing out there, that just got cut for hay.

"Coastal" is a kind of Bermuda grass, coastal Bermuda. Sudan is different grass.

Here is a great article that goes through all the stuff grown in Texas and pros and cons.

 

Alaskan

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Oh... forgot... 1st, 2nd, 3rd cutting can mean little if you have had freaky weather.... or it can be a huge difference.

But usually, the later cuttings result in leafier, greener, more tender/less stems, more nutritious hays.

Depends on where you are at though.

Some places have so much rain towards the end of the season, that the super green leafy 3rd cutting hay is also more likely to not be fully dry, or to be moldy.

If they cut the hay, and then it keeps getting rained on before they can get it dry and bailed, it will lose a bunch of the nutrients, even if they finally manage to fully dry before bailing. And then, an honest producer will label it "cow hay".
 

Baymule

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Really good article @Alaskan. That pretty much covers it.

I buy round bales, 1500 pounds, Bermuda grass hay. I put a square of cow panels around it and the sheep can poke their heads through the holes to eat the hay. But not Ringo, his head is too big, so I pile hay up against the cow panel to make sure he can get hay.

Drawbacks; after they eat all they can reach, I have to pull hay off the top and drag it down for the sheep to eat. I also have to pull the stemmy parts the sheep don’t want. The bale is under the barn roof to keep rain off. I drop the stemmy rejects on the barn floor, the sheep bed down in it. When I get to the core of the round bale, then I get the pitch fork to get the hay up to the cow panel so sheep can reach it.

You don’t have a tractor to move round bales. For the number of sheep you are getting, square bales will be more user friendly.

You can build a V shape hay feeder with a cow panel. Build a tray on 4x4 skids with a roof over it to keep rain off. Put the cow panel V attached to the top, maybe attached to the bottom tray. You can probably put half to a full bale in the feeder. Dropped hay will fall in the tray. Drill holes in the tray for drainage. I’m probably not explaining that real good, @Alaskan can you find a picture?

I feed my sheep horse quality Bermuda hay. The family I buy from says they don’t make bad hay. Would weedy hay work? I don’t know. If they do have weedy or “off” hay, they feed it to their cows, they won’t sell it.

With the grass you have, you might not have to feed a lot of hay, but always keep it available for them.
 

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You can build a V shape hay feeder with a cow panel. Build a tray on 4x4 skids with a roof over it to keep rain off. Put the cow panel V attached to the top, maybe attached to the bottom tray. You can probably put half to a full bale in the feeder. Dropped hay will fall in the tray. Drill holes in the tray for drainage. I’m probably not explaining that real good, @Alaskan can you find a picture?
Should be lots of photos on the internet... but I don't see them.

I did found this store bought one, which is about the same thing

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For lots of money from

But... that is the basic shape you want. If you look close the "hay holding" part is a 'V' shape. You can make that from anything, baby crib parts, pallets, futon frame, cattle panels,whatever.

The roof should be big, keep out the sideways rain.

Put it all on skids and you can drag it about.
 

messybun

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Wow, we had to learn the hard way. Figure out how many bales they ate a week and then multiply by the length of winter. Which is why I tell all new people to come here! That being said, for two “normal” goats and 5 pygmies we go through apprx. 2 bales a month. But always get two or three months more than the winter because grass can take a little while to grow and winters can sometimes be harsher (worse weather=more fuel to keep warm) than you expect.
 

Alaskan

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Always count waste as well as extra for any harsh temps or rain. Goats hate rain, stay inside, and eat more than normal in cold. Its how they produce heat, body processing hay. ;) besides that -- if you're well stocked, weather will be better! :lol:
See? That is ALWAYS my thought!!

If you have the hay, the weather will be great and you will not need it.

If you are short on hay, then there will be no hay available, the weather will be horrid, the animals will need lots more hay, and you will cry yourself to sleep every night.
 

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In Texas coastal grass is the most commonly found hay and is the cheapest. Alfalfa is only available if imported from other states because of blister beetle which is toxic. If you are breeding your sheep you will want to add some alfalfa pellets to up the protein content a bit during pregnancy and lactation. Loose mineral salt is also good. I use mineral blocks but I feed alfalfa which has higher protein and mineral levels than coastal. Plenty of good quality alfalfa in California and it is cheaper than other types here too. Not saying much since our California hay is very expensive. LOL

You don't want to over feed during pregnancy since a lower birth weight is easier on the ewe. Then increase protein by adding either grain or alfalfa pellets during lactation. When approaching weaning cut back on the grain and alfalfa pellet to cut the amount of milk being produced. By 3 months you should be able to pull the lambs straight off the ewe and take ram lambs straight to auction. Ewe lambs can be separated from ewe for another couple weeks or months or left with her if you have reduced the amount of additional protein. The ewe will eventually wean the lamb herself as her milk completely dries up. This is the easy way - no screaming lambs or ewes! If you decide to put your ram lamb in the freezer be sure to reserve a slaughter date NOW since she is bred. I took 3 lambs to auction since my guy couldn't fit me in until December - and that was sliding e in before a couple other customers because he has done my butchering for many years! All the butchers and custom cutters are backlogged. I took the December date since my next couple of lambs may be ready about then. If not, auction prices are good right now.
 
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