There are tons of choices, whether you are looking for straight Orchard Grass or Al- falfa or some sort of blend. There are a few considerations. First, the price is more than double what I currently pay but I am getting twice the protein. Second, you have to buy the hay by the semi-truck load, and third, be

able to unload the hay once it arrives. The bales are quite large, 1000 lbs or more depending on the dimensions. Square bales are a possibility, too, but then I need an army to unload the trailer. And you have to have somewhere to store it. Or store it outside and lose about 10% of the hay

to the elements. And it still should be off the ground to prevent mold and tarped if at all possible to shed some of the water. It’s hard to look outside and see your hard earned cash soaking wet with 4 feet of snow sitting on top of it. Locally, I can buy hay and have it

stored offsite for the season and get it when I need it but the price is unpredictable. Two years ago the price of hay jumped 25%. This year it jumped 30% over last year’s price. The caveat is that I can travel an hour north and pay two years ago’s price for hay but you must have a trailer big enough to make it worth the trip or have it delivered for last year’s price.

Going for one or two bales or even 10

wouldn’t be enough to cover your costs. But if you could transport 18-22, 4x4 round bales or the like, it would be worth the trip. I am sure the price increases are similar all over the country and the considerations are much the same. This past winter, due to the shortage, those that didn’t have hay al- ready locked in for the season paid a whop- ping 325% over the previous year’s price. I am sure it is even higher in other regions. The tough decision is to continue feed- ing poor quality hay, found locally, at more than 60% over prices two years ago or find a more reasonably priced alternative that has higher protein too, that I might have to work a little harder at getting.

This past year I tried two round bales of baleage. Baleage is partially dried hay, with a moisture content of 45-55% that is wrapped at least 6 times in 1 mil plastic. The fermen- tation process is much slower than that of haylage but when finally exposed to the ele- ments at feeding, it begins to spoil much quicker due to its moisture content. Many swear by it, while others swear off it com- pletely.

My understanding, and I am by no means the expert, is that the protein content is much higher, and so is the moisture content, which is harder for goats to digest and it may potentially harbor dangerous or- ganisms harmful to goats. However, by volume you are getting approximately the same amount of forage, weighs a lot more, but has more protein available. This past year when I tested ba- leage with my herd, it lasted twice as long as dry hay, and to be honest, the goats looked fatter and happier than they ever have on dry hay.

I still have my reservations. The key to

successfully offering baleage is to ensure it is fed out within 3-4 days of being opened,

24 Goat Rancher | October 2021

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