Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hay Hoopla

Have you ever heard of woman's intuition? I know to trust my gut. It tells me everything, even things I don't want to know.

Paint Girl's other half (OH) and I went and loaded and unloaded 70 bales of grass hay from a local grower two weekends ago.

When we started loading the hay, I noticed it was awfully damp. I made a comment to the hay man and the OH, but it was casually dismissed, it will dry, it won't be a problem.

As we unloaded the hay, I continued to noticed many of the bales were damp, even on the inside. We rock salted the hay as we loaded it into the storage area. But that uneasy feeling did not go away. I was not comfortable with this hay. I just had that feeling. I was worrying. I'm a good worrier. But this time, I felt I was worrying for a reason.

A few days later, I randomly came across an article about the spontaneous combustion of hay in a horse journal at the bookstore. I emailed Paint Girl that night and reminded her of this, since that hay had been damp....and damp hay is a prime candidate to become a fire hazard, especially within 6 weeks of being baled.

Two days later I get an email from Paint Girl saying they opened a bale of hay to not only find it moldy, but hot inside. Uh-oh.

Several days and many more moldy bales later, the hay man has mailed us a check for 70 bales of hay. He graciously accepted responsibility for the bad hay. I am kicking myself for not standing my ground that day, and saving ourselves the trouble of loading and unloading, and disposing of it. But in my defense, I usually buy hay at the feed store, not out of a grower's field, so my experience with this is not good. Next time, I'll know better.

Our hay supervisor.

My Boy has been fed a high-quality orchard grass hay. The bales are huge and oh goodness, are they stinkin' heavy! And yep Trailboss, they have cost up to $19 a bale, typically in the dead of winter. I think two years ago, they ran around $22 a bale. Right now they are running around $15 a bale.

The hay we got from the grower two weekends ago was a local grass hay, it was $4 a bale. The same hay costs around $6.00-7.00 at the feed store, and anywhere from $4-5.00 in the field, typically. The bales are a lot smaller, maybe 40-50 pounds compared to the 90-105 pounds of the orchard grass. Even if My Boy goes through two bales of the local grass in the same amount time he'd go through one bale of the orchard grass, I'd still be saving. He also doesn't need the protein of the orchard, which can often contain a bit of alfalfa.

The spoiled hay is a nightmare to deal with. I told Paint Girl's OH to wear a mask to prevent mold spore poisoning (I'm not sure this is possible, but I'll worry about it.) It is a lesson learned for all of us involved, for sure. I am just thankful that Paint Girl's hay storage area did not go up in flames, and our horses did not eat spoiled hay and risk illness. Any hay advice or hay horror stories of your own to share?


  1. Wow! They say that you should always trust your instincts! Remind me to tell you a story about one of mine someday.

  2. WOW! I am so glad no one got sick, and you didn't have a fire. I don't ever think about it, since Dusty's is included with his board.

  3. We have never had this happen before in the 5 years of buying local grass hay. This is a first. I know my OH is not happy right now, since we have to dispose of all that hay, and I hope the hay seller has learned that he needs to let the hay dry before baling! But I also have to thank the hay seller for refunding all of our money! And he has offered some free hay at the next cutting, which we will only take if he bales the hay the right way!
    Bailey looks like he is having a great time on the hay trailer! I missed that! Darn work! Well, I guess I don't work anymore, so I won't miss the next hay trip!

  4. Wow do things ever differ by area. The whole idea of going to a store to buy hay just throws me... oats, sweet feed, senior feed, etc you can get at the 'feed store' here (usually a pet store with a horse area or a farm & garden centre) but not hay or straw.

    I believe you've mentioned salting the hay before but this is something I've never heard of. What's the deal with the salt PG?

  5. Yeah - those heavier than normal bales are a give-away! We've had a few moldy bales here and there from our supplier - but he's always graciously refunded our money. Removal of moldy hay is a real pain - we even had to remove a moldy round bale once and that was an even bigger pain! Sometimes we've even had moldy hay that has dried - the "dust" - mold spores - that fly up when you open it is a dead giveaway. Most horses won't touch moldy hay unless they're starving - so they're smart about that.

  6. I don't know what you have done with all of that hay but farmers will feed that to cattle....They usually don't care if it is a little moldy..Just a thought. And yes it is definitely true that the wet hay or straw can spark a fire. A few years ago we had 2 weanlings in a barn and had cleaned their stall which consisted of straw and obviously urine and poo and we left it in the aisle way till we could get the trailer in to haul it out (it was icy or something) and when we came back in later it was smoking....

    As far as baling hay goes, after it has been swathed it needs to be raked and then later raked again to flip it. We typically like to leave ours on the ground for 2 days before we bale if there has been an moisture in the area. If it gets rained on it will pretty much ruin it so we obviously try to watch the weather when it's time to cut. my rule of thumb for hay is I stick my hand in the middle of the hay and if it feels sticky or hot (like a wet heat) then it's bad, I also smell it if it smells a little sweet then it's good...As far as feeding anything with alfalfa in it around here we have to watch for blister beetles, don't know if you guys have them where you are?? I try to feed brome hay, and if I'm not lucky enough to have enough for the whole winter I will feed prairie hay but I also feed a pelleted feed too...( I feed the pelleted feed no matter what hay I use)

  7. Wow you have a good third eye instinct. I have never had a hay problem because our trainer also is a farmer that we get the hay from. I know at our Agway a bail of hay is 7.00 and I pay less then 3.00. Good girl checkin on that hay. I wish your hay was cheaper for your spotted pill. Then you would have more mola to buy way cool boots.::)

  8. I've blogged both this year and last about our haying days. We still have our big field to go & it is always a nail biting time until it is done!

    When we picked up what was baled a few weeks ago, we noticed some of the bales with clover were damp. Rather than risk it, we opened them back up and spread them back out in the field. John raked them again, turning them a couple of times. He baled them last Friday and was pretty happy with them. Said they may not be horse quality but the cows will eat them. So we saved about 30 bales. Whew!

  9. "Hay grower" is right at the top of my list of things I wouldn't want to be - the stress of being at the mercy of the weather - ugh. Martha Stewart had an illustrated post this week about her first cutting - it's pretty good:

  10. been there done all of that and it gets old fast...know exactly what you went through. i no longer buy from locals as they have no clue how to put up good hay. i haul down to lexington ky and get the best three string timothy (110-120 lbs) that is grown out west in wash state. my hayman in lex owns the business and the farm. expensive but worth it in the end. (no mold, no heat, no blister beetle, no weeds, just an abundance of pure green timothy with lots of head). it is professionally put up and is sold all over the world. he even has orders in dubai, england, germany, etc. they ship it in these funny containers on big barges. although the bales are heavy, i get maybe 30 and it will last my two horses during the summer around 6 months. easier to stack and store in the long run, although heavy. i can stack 5 high by myself and love every minute of it!

  11. I grew up in small town SC and remember seeing a truck towing a trailer full of huge round hay bales and one of them was on fire; it was such a weird thing to see and when I asked my parents about it they told me about decomposition leading to heat high enough for the hay to catch fire. Such a weird phenomonon. Glad everything turned out allright for Paint Girl. The grower should have been patient and let it dry out thoroughly.

  12. Hay should be about 18% moisture. No higher. We have a probe that tests the temperature and moisture content. Worth wile investment if you have your own farm but they cost around 199$ at the TSC store. Mold turns into dust, and dust is dangerous because it contains mold spores.
    Ask for a hay analysis before buying hay. Even if you get it from the feed store they should provide you with one. It tells you what your hay is lacking so you can make it up with supplements and grain.

  13. City Girl had a good suggestion: farmers will feed that hay to cattle.

    Also, farmers can use that hay for mulch and/or composting.

    see http://www.localharvest.org/
    for farms in your area.

    Sydney offered sound advice for buying a probe so you can check for yourself. Per horse, it isn't much. And getting a hay analysis is always a good idea.

    Garlic Man,
    Jack County, TX

  14. I'm so glad that no one got sick from it! I had to learn the hard way:

    Last year, my old stable manager was going to get a big load of hay, so we asked him to pick some up for us. He brought this hay that I didn't like, but my he and grandmother (who was buying half the load for her horses, too) both thought it looked fine, so I deferred to their experience, but my gut still told me that the hay was bad.

    A month later Maverick started to lose weight, and his sheath was swollen. I mean it was huge! I called my vet out, who said that it was probably an infection, and gave him some antibiotics. Three weeks later, even that didn't help -- in fact, he got worse.

    Meanwhile, he kept losing weight, had colic for the first time ever, stopped eating and became lethargic. I finally got so worried that I took the day off and took him up to UC Davis to be checked.

    $800 and a whole lot of stress later, we found out that it was an obstruction caused by, yep, the bad hay! We gave him a laxative to help him pass the obstruction, and I bought him ten bales of Timothy hay on the way home.

    The next day (I mean, literally, the very next day) he had more energy, an appetite, and the swelling was almost gone.

    There was an article about identifying bad hay that appeared on Kachina's Twitter yesterday, probably just so I could pass along to you!: http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/nutrition/013-hay.shtml

    Hope it helps. I think the bottom line is that you should always, always trust your instincts. I'll never ignore my gut about hay again, that's for sure!

  15. What a mess!! I am glad you caught that in time. We pick our hay up out of a field. We follow the bailer. It's 4.25 a bale here. We have been lucky with our hay. We do get worried around hurricane season. We like our barn roof to stay on so we don't loose any during storms.

  16. I have no tips about hay. The critters in these here parts don't eat it. Just the occasional grass. I'm glad none of the horses got sick, that would have been a nightmare! Thank goodness Paint Girl and her OH checked after you made the phone call to them, FINALLY someone listened to you.

  17. My old BM once opened a bail of hay to find a dead/dehydrated sea gull!! Protein right?

  18. Pony Girl, That was so awesome that you and your sister got to got see Clinton Anderson! You are such a fabulous sister!!!
    I am horrified by your hay story because no one likes to have all that extra work, or a faulty Hay Man!!! Just thinking of heaving those bales around makes me feel tired. And the hay that could have exploded!? I don't even want to think about that!' I hope the faulty Hay Man has learned an important lesson!!
    My horse only eats good quality local hay. She gets second cutting and most people I tell that look at me like I am crazy! It is hay that looks so good, I myself almost feel like eating it!!! She loves it! It is so satisfying to see my brumby happily munching on her hay!!!

  19. Great catch Pony girl !!!!
    I had friends loose the whole barn , tack equip,ment the whole shebang years ago from Hay that heated . Lucky that no horses were lost. Trust your nose girl !that will also tell you something is off with the hay.(smells unusually sweet)

  20. It was surprisingly nice to hear about a hay seller who refunded your money. That's the best part of the whole story! Besides no one becoming ill.

    When you go to purchase hay from the grower you should have him open a bale of your choice in front of you so you can check for moisture and heat. Just stick your hand in the middle and you'll know.

    Eastern vs. local is a big difference in nutrition and calories, not just protein content. Orchard hay only has alfalfa if it's an orchard/alfalfa mix, otherwise it's either orchard or alfalfa. You may find that through the winter you'll feed your horse twice as much (or more) local hay than orchard and it might cost more and take up more space in the long-run. I know of a lot of barns that, for their easy keepers, feed local as a filler hay in the daytime when the horses can't get out and graze, then they feed the eastern oregon hay in the AM and PM as their sustenance.

    I have personally had one horse that was in perfect shape and condition with two flakes of local and a scoop of sweet feed twice a day. One horse was rail thin on local. My current horse, well, he'd probably lose weight just looking at local hay! I know several horses who dropped a lot of weight this winter on local (my last barn was self-care with many horses so I did get to see the results of different hays on different horses).

    If you haven't done so, you should check out the OSU Extension Service. Here is a good link to hay information (among other things!).


  21. "Orchard hay only has alfalfa if it's an orchard/alfalfa mix, otherwise it's either orchard or alfalfa."

    I meant to say that orchard hay only has orchard hay . . .

  22. People have been baling around here, but I still think it is a little early myself. Because the hay may look ready but will take a lot longer to dry on the ground because the ground is still wet! Thats why usually hay isnt cut on the west side until July, and the ground has had a chance to dry up.
    Hay salt is always a good idea when you put up local grass here on the west side of Wa.

    Getting rid of bad hay though, hmmm...

    Give it away as erosion control hay (might even be able to get $1 per bale for erosion control???)to a contractor, or feeding it to cows are about the only options besides spreading it out somewhere.

    There are still people around that know how to bale our local hay, but you usually dont see them baling until July!

  23. That is horrible and bad hay can kill a horse! My cousin buys the alfalfa pellets for her show horses
    and there is a problem with bugs in hay also that can kill a horse if ingested. There is always something to worry about with horses because they are so fragile for a large animal. Sorry all the work was for not much of anything except a good workout x two......

  24. I'm sooo lucky - our hay guy delivers, takes payments, replaces bad bales and takes the bad hay away. It took 12 years to find him tho, and he's MINE ALL MINE!!!

  25. Other than a dead cat in a bale, nothing out of the ordinary. Poor kitty!

  26. So glad everything turned out O.K. for you! You really have to go with your cowgirl gut! Luanne

  27. A good honest hay supplier is so important. Last year, my guy's 2nd cutting was ruined when there was a rainstorm after he cut it and before he could bale. They have a hard life, those hay-makers. It's a pain to have gone through what you did, but don't beat yourself up over not refusing it while the guy was loading it - These are life's lessons and you know a lot more about buying hay than you did before. At least he gave you the money back. Moldy hay, foxgloves in the pasture, these are all part of being a wise and cautious horse owner - which you are.

  28. I have had wet hay before like that. I broke them all up and separated the best I could. It seemed to help them dry out. I cant believe the hay is that expensive. Have you thought about feeding him a round bale? We feed orchard grass and it is in a huge round bale. need a tractor sometimes but it is great to put in the pasture and then feed alfalfa once a day. My guy loves it.

  29. {Victoria}~ Thanks...I feel I'm a bit of a worrywart horse owner at times, but I know it pays to try to ward off potential issues in advance. I'm very picky when it comes to my horse, LOL! I wonder how I'll be with my own children? ;)

  30. I've yet to find hay I'm truly happy with. We've been having dry conditions for about 3 years now and the bales suffer from dust and feeling like they're going to poke a hole in the horses' mouths. It's my dream to find a decent hay supplier that puts me on his customer list so I'm always guaranteed a hay supply. Of course, if I'm boarding in the future, it will become someone else's problem.

  31. Funny how those boys swear it'll be fine, isn't it? We had that exact same situation with some hay we got last summer. We picked up 5 tons of very damp hay and were told it would be fine. Well, about half of it was, but the other half totally spoiled and I did call and check on what our insurance coverage for the barn was a couple times, just in case. ;) Glad you caught it and no animals or barns were hurt!


I love hearing from my readers!! I truly enjoy all of your feedback, advice, helpful tips, and stories. You all make me laugh and I learn so much from you, too. I will try to post replies to your comments as often as I can.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin