Monday, January 2, 2012

The Farmer's Holy Grail

My eyes are all bleary feeling... I've been staring at this computer screen for entirely too long. My computer mouse makes continuous clicking noises, as I clickety-click at Craigslist ads. And then click again to go back to the main list. I'm on the hunt for what every farm person seeks. It's our holy grail. We wheel and deal, plead and beg, hunt and skulk for what we are searching for. Some have it easier than others in this quest fraught with disappointments and dead ends. We keep the bottle of ibuprofen right beside us, and on pieces of ripped paper are phone numbers that have been crossed off.

 And what is this holy grail that we so intensely and doggedly track down? Ah, it could only be one thing... And if you are a livestock owner yourself, you may have an inkling of what it is.

It's hay.

Hay for our livestock.

We search for it until we feel we can't go on anymore. We sympathize with each other as we plunk down $19 per bale. We inspect test bales as if they were the key to life. We look at their color, feel the core temperature, smell it, taste it, crunch it in our hands, bend it, measure the length, test it for protein percentages,  walk around it, feel its weight. And then finally, we see if the animals like it, and if we can afford it. If those don't work, then it's back to the ol' drawing board. 

If there is one thing in life that I utterly hate, it's trying to find a good hay source. Many people assume that goats will eat anything, and therefore any cheap hay will do. Dear readers, 'tis not so... Goats are the pickiest creatures on this globe. Don't waste your money trying to give them what is classed as, "cow hay"; that's bedding to them. Horse hay is a step up, but they're still apt to turn their noses up at it. No, it's not easy for us goat people, as we find that our dairy goats will really only eat the best stuff out there. But YIKES! Prices are almost $400 per ton this year!! It is maddening when you've just gotten a ton of expensive hay that looks good to your eye, and then you watch those ornery goats pull out and trample 3/4's of it, and only eat one tiny fraction. World's most expensive bedding. 

 Goat hay is hard to find. It has to be green. It has to be soft. The length of the grasses can't be more than eight inches long. There can't be dust in it. Or twigs. They don't like fescue. And I can only spend $160, and that price has to include delivery. [bonks head on computer desk repeatedly]

 So there I am: scrolling through the Craigslist ads, trying to find my Holy Grail. Hay. That's all I want. Hay.

"Aha! Here's one!" I begin to think as I start perusing an ad of interest. "Good Orchard grass hay, very green and soft. Never been rained on. Good for horses and goats. $140 per ton." Then I see the bottom of the ad: "No delivery available." Sigh...

Next one up: "Excellent alfalfa hay. We've been doing business since 1987, and we repeatedly have the best hay around. $135 per ton and delivery is available for a nominal fee." The goats absolutely LOVE alfalfa hay! But I am yet again cast down, as I read their catch: You have to buy a minimum of 10 tons. Ouch.

I liked this one: "High quality Orchard grass hay. No weeds, no rain. Been stored in the barn. These are "lady sized" bales, weighing 55-60 lbs. each. $160 per ton; delivery available." I cracked up at the description of "lady sized" bales!! I actually would have contacted this person, but their Craigslist ad expired yesterday. Phooey.

 I read through countless other ads. Good hay, bad hay. Brown hay, green hay. Expensive hay, dirt cheap hay. Cow hay, goat hay. Clover hay, fescue hay. Hay, hay, hay. Hmm, that sounds like something from Dr. Seuss...

Out of all those leads, I think I might have two that might work. But it is always so nerve wracking when buying a ton of it! More than once, I have shown up at a farmer's place to be shown his "High quality, green alfalfa hay", and my eyes beheld a stack of hay that more or less resembled a bleached pile of bones, than it did "high quality, green, alfalfa hay. Or I get there, and find out the the fella' forgot that I was coming. Or I buy an entire ton, and then the person not only brings the wrong kind, but the inside of the bales are moldy!! ARGH!!! 

 Now, I know that making hay is not easy. My hat is off to all hay farmers, and I have great respect for them. They have the weather to contend with each year, and they dance to a finicky tune that can turn ugly at any moment. But all I want is a ton of green, soft hay. The hay doesn't have to be a brilliant green; a soft, summer shade will do me. But yellow and brown are not okay in my book. 

Despite the headaches and heartaches of hay hunting, there is nothing in life that fills me with more joy (I think it might even top newborn goat kids) than seeing a stack of hay in my own barn. It's passed all the tests, and now it's here. Perfuming the place with its intoxicating, floral scent, and sitting in a stack like an emperor on his throne. Hay is king here. 

 So my quest for the Holy Grail continues... I can't wait until it's over.

1 comment:

Mirandandgoats said...

I hear you, I feel for you, I pray for you. Thankfully this year we cut our own hay and the goats are actually eating it!!! :D It is a miracle... Why do you have to buy it by the ton? Around here they sell it by the bale... anyway good luck!