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Hey How’s the Hay?

July 27, 2013

Not all hay is the same, and like any sized operation we’re looking to save money where we can. Some available cut grass this week has proven to be a learning experience for Connor, and a chance to share some basics with readers who don’t understand why quality hay is critical.

On a larger scale, you can see some discussion of forages, grass and alfalfa hay here in a video from Peterson Farms.

There are many types of hay and forage fed to livestock, depending on the type of animal fed. Growing and producing animals require more feed than those just hanging out. When a friend of Paul’s cut some grass and offered it earlier in the week, he bagged up a bunch of it for a ration stretcher for the rabbits and a lesson for Connor. He brought it home in bags, which needed to be emptied so the grass could be laid out to dry. In the bags, it would mold and generate heat, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAspoiling before anything could use it. Spread out to dry, the air allowed the moisture removal from the grass without trapping the heat in.

Of course, like many teens (and adults!) Connor wanted to put off doing this task, until he put his hand down in the center of the bags and felt the heat! Spread out on tarps, it allowed air drying of the grasses. Last night as rain was possible, they bagged it up and one wasn’t quite dry completely. I pulled it back out today and spread it again, allowing Connor to feel, again, the heat in the center even with just a little moisture remaining.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHay, if baled or bagged improperly not only can spoil and make animals sick (or even kill them), but there’s another danger from improperly processed hay. When piled up it can generate enough heat to ignite. Sadly, there are barn fires every year from hay that builds up too much heat. Many recommend not keeping hay in horse stables for this reason.

The grasses we have here doesn’t offer a great deal of nutrition like the alfalfa hay the Petersons harvested. We do use alfalfa too, when we can get it or as a pelleted ration. The rabbits get pellets, which offer a complete nutrition, but the extra fiber from hay gives the rabbits something more to do and nibble on. Like horses and pigs, rabbits have a single stomach (cattle, sheep and goats have four chambers – as ruminants they have a different digestive process). If rabbits get spoiled feed, they can die because they can’t throw up. Keeping the hay clean, then, is critical whether it’s a field of alfalfa or a few bags of grass mix.

Be it large scale or small, hay, forage, chopped grasses all provide feed for our animals. If we get some that is a bit past good, it’s tossed in the chicken pen for them to scratch in. Bedding from the solid floors also goes in the larger chicken pens, allowing them to scratch, turn, compost it naturally.

Hay – it’s what’s for critter dinners!

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