Everyone knows this past summer saw some of the worst drought conditions imaginable here in Indiana. The reservoir was so low that lost cities buried under water for years were visible. In fact, you could walk along the old roads and pick up some of the artifacts that remained in the rubble – although you were asked not to. Many crops were lost – including all of ours. We tried to water, but all we ended up with was a $300 water bill and crops that simply did not produce. I knew – come winter – we were in trouble because if crops wouldn’t grow even when they were given plenty of water – hay was not going to grow either – and I was right.
This is the second winter since I started raising livestock that hay has been scarce. The first time around we found hay for $7 a bale – and since the business had hay hauled in from Wisconsin, there was plenty to go around. The downside was it took that business almost two years to get rid of all that hay – so he decided not to go that route again.
Last winter this place ran out of hay and I was searching high and low for a source. I ended up buying round bales but since I cannot get those into my barn, they laid on a tarp in the driveway until they were used up. The animals seemed to lose weight – and maybe that was because I was not sure how much a flake actually was. I didn’t have a scale big enough to lay the hay on and get an accurate weight. Spring came and suddenly hay was plentiful again. My animals gained weight and I was hoping I would never have to resort to using round bales again, but before this winter is over, that may be my only choice – that is, if I can find any.
The place I prefer to get my hay was able to get a few bales – but the cost this year is $8 a bale. It is nice hay and I won’t need to feed near as much as it is mostly alfalfa. The scary part is they have a limited supply – and the other place I found to buy hay is now out. Our local Tractor Supply has grass hay for almost $10 a bale – but the bales are very small. In fact, I would need to feed at least two bales a day to keep my livestock fed.
So what is a small scale homesteader to do? Or even a farmer? I really don’t have an answer. I just get by from day to day and pray an answer will come along. Someone out there has to have more hay than they need. I don’t know who they are or where they are but I hope – if they see this post – they will come forward. I know I am not the only one who has major concerns right now on how they are going to keep their livestock fed through the winter.
The even scarier part is how the lack of hay – or the high cost of purchasing hay if you can find any – is going to translate back to the consumer. Believe me, prices are going to rise yet again. This is not good news for anyone. This is why we must all work together to help one another find feed for both ourselves and our livestock that is both good and inexpensive. If you know someone – regardless of where you are – with an abundance of hay, please encourage them to share it with others. By working together, I believe we can gain ground and make it possible to have good, organic food at a reasonable cost and healthly livestock that is not raised under less-than-ideal conditions.