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Old 09/14/03, 07:17 PM
eb eb is offline
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 69
estimating winter hay needs

Hi guys.

Anyone want to sanity check my assumptions for winter hay estimates?...last year I just picked up a pickup truck full at a time and never really kept track for the few animals I had...this year I may be heading into winter with about 5 times as many animals so I want to budget much better.

Anyway, found a website that uses something called an Animal Unit...which is a theoretical 1000lb animal I beleive, and it is assumed that a 1000lb animal will need 25lbs hay per day...sheep and goats are considered 1/7of an AU, and a donkey the size I have would be 2/7 of an AU. Kids and Lambs would be considered 1/14th of an AU.

Anyway, what this more or less works out to is that a single sheep or goat (150lbs average?) would require about about 3.75lbs of hay per day and rough a 100lbs per month (almost two bales).

A donkey (mine is a large mini and weighs about 250lbs) would require almost twice as much, or roughly a bale per 2 weeks.

Also, for my area (New England), I am assuming 180 days of needing to provide hay...roughly mid Oct thru Mid April before the pastures.

For all my estimates, I'd rather round everthing up and be safe...opinions anyway?

Anyone have hay estimates (or better yet actual records) for their animals and be willing to share?

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Old 09/14/03, 07:34 PM
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 48
I overwintered 7 sheep last year. Guess that would be one AU. I gave them about a half a bale a day, but it was really poor grass hay. I give full size horses 5 flakes per day. I bet hay is going to be sky high just about everywhere this winter. Calculate your needs and buy it now plus about half again as much. If you don't need it, I bet you will make most of your hay money back on the excess come about 5 weeks before green up. By then, you will know exactly what it will take to last you through that 5 weeks. I put up 200 bales this summer and am trying to buy 200 more before fall. I am feeding 1 steer, 13 sheep, 5 horses and 4 goats but only the goats get hay everyday. The rest are on pasture as long as it lasts. I usually only use about 150 bales per year and I feed pretty generously when I feed it at all. Hope that helps.
chaplain robert
little farm/BIG GOD
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Old 09/14/03, 07:45 PM
eb eb is offline
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 69
Well thanks for that response...7 sheep getting 1/2 of bale per day is just about 25lbs per AU, just like the formulas I had found...thats good news (at least for my estimating purposes).

Curious why you think hay will be so expensive this year? How much do you usually pay, and what do you think it will go up to?

Also still interested in others testimonials about hay usage.
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Old 09/14/03, 07:46 PM
Ross's Avatar
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Ontario
Posts: 13,056
I use 6 pounds of mixed grass hay running 13%ish protein per day will feed a sheep with minimal suppliment of either barley or Corn/protein sup, to 16% (say half a pound ea.) will feed my sheep. Sheep averaging 130 pounds and scoring 3+ or - a bit at the start. You'd need less high quality hay and perhaps no suppliment if your sheep are in good shape, you might need more suppliment if they are not. Mixed hay is a nice base to work from, even untested it will (if harvested in a timely ,manner and as no-rain crop) will give a nice minimum 12%-14% ration. I figure if I have 2 round bales (650 pounds) per sheep and 1000-1500 small squares I have plenty to feed 200 ewes and 100 lambs (diminishing to zero by Christmas) for 210 days through lambing in April/May. New England is only 180 days? Yes I have hay left over but feeding through midMay is not unheard of here either.
Keep an open mind; but, double the guard for who you let in.
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Old 09/14/03, 11:24 PM
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 48
In my area, after June, it never rained again. I don't know of anyone around here that got a second cutting. Often, we cut three times. Back east, it rained all hay season and a lot of that hay wasn't put up at its prime. Oklahoma and Texas (for a change and they deserved a turn) got a pretty prime hay season this year. In fact, a lot of cattle buyers are coming up my way from OK trying to find bargain feeders since most farmers in this area won't have enough hay to get through the winter without reducing stock. Luckily, so far, that demand has kept the price up where stock reduction is still profitable, but it won't last long. The remaining hay is going to become a hot item. I usually buy it at an auction. For the grade of hay they bring, I won't pay over $1.25 unless I am desparate. I have bought many a bale at 75 cents each. I haven't been up yet this fall, but my neighbor told me a couple weeks ago that it is bringing $2.50 to $3.00--and this is for really weedy, stemmy junk folks are just trying to get rid of. Anyway, enough of my hay diatribe. I will wait a few more weeks, let the early wormers get their hay and then try to pick up a couple loads in the lull between the "Omigosh, I gotta get my hay now crowd" and the "Omigosh, I am outta hay and gotta buy at any price" crowd. Just my simple minded speculation--hay futures, if you will.

edited to add: Typically, at the auction I attend, late winter, early spring hay brings one and half to two times what late fall hay brings. Not as much demand when everyone has a stack or two in the mow already. When everyone's stacks get small or gone, you are set up for prime bidding wars. I bought 25 really, really light, slightly moldy bales this spring for $3.25 each. It held me until I could run a fence and get my animals on some new ground. I fully expect hay to approach 4 bucks a bale by late Feb or early March around here.
chaplain robert
little farm/BIG GOD
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Old 09/15/03, 11:31 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: USA
Posts: 825
Includes, how this shepherd estimates hay needs
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Old 09/16/03, 11:50 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 479
A rule of thumb that was once shared with me is figure on 40 small square bales of hay (~40 lbs. each) per mature sheep per year. It assumes a smaller mature animal than I have with my Hampshire sheep and also doesn't account for grazing during spring/summer/fall so if you do pasture your flock you may have some left over.

When I've kept track of how many bales we put up and how many we've fed out this rule of thumb has been fairly accurate in calculating winter hay needs, late October through April, for my 175-200 pound ewes and 300+ pound rams here in central Wisconsin. Late April through end of October the flock is pastured.
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