Winter is on the way, which means for many of us we will be buying hay. With our ranches gripped by drought, this year we are buying earlier than ever before and the competition is fierce.
We are seeing record prices for all types of hay and with prices rising daily we need to buy smarter than we ever have before.
Here are our top 5 tips for buying hay when it really matters:
Knowing how much your cows will eat over the winter is essential to figuring how much hay you need to buy. Cows, calves, bulls and horses all need to be included in your feeding estimate. If you don’t buy enough now you may pay for it later.
Hay is going to be hard to find for many western ranchers this year. Go back in your records, call old contacts, check facebook, craigslist and don’t forget your local feed store’s bulletin boards. Call hay brokers, and keep an eye on forums and boards online. It's not going to fall into your lap, you are going to have to work just to find it.
How old is it, how has it been stored and what type of hay is it? What does it weigh per bale and is it in big rounds, small squares or big squares. Know that it will fit your feeding style and equipment. If you can, get a picture of it in its current state, better yet, if you can, travel to it to look at it before you commit. Watch out for mold and hay that might have been put up too wet. The best quality hay will be silver-green.
How are you going to get your hay home? Figure your transport costs carefully. Hay that may be cheaper in the field may cost you more than more expensive hay that is closer to you. Do the math and know what it's going to cost.
Whoever put up your hay may have tested when it was baled but crude protein, starches and minerals can change over time. Get you hay tested to help you figure out your winter program and the nutritional requirements of your herd.
In the end our job is to get our cows from season to season, healthy and happy. Knowing what we feed them, how much and how to make it the most economical for us is the bottom line.
The most important thing you can do when feeding your herd is to ask questions. Make informed decisions, know the size of bales and weights and you will have happy cows and have fun feeding them.
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