Ian Colton, Donkey Welfare Adviser has some tips about buying hay and straw for winter feed for donkeys.
It’s easy to relax in the warmth of summer and forget that most of the hay has already been cut and baled. The first of the winter barley is being cut. What does that mean for donkey owners? Hay and straw are produced just once a year and the weather plays a very important part influencing the crop. Corn and grass need enough rain early in the year to encourage sufficient growth. Later on in the year, dry and warm weather is needed to dry the cut grass for hay and to ripen the grain so it to can be harvested.
At the moment, hay is plentiful – but you will only get the benefit of this if you purchase now. The first of the winter barley will be harvested and its straw baled in July. Farmers are predicting a reasonable harvest but this comes with a warning - there was a shortage last year, so every farmer is trying to purchase extra to replenish their stock. The advice is not to delay, make contact with your farmer or supplier and purchase your winter supply now.
If you purchase now, you will:
- Get the best price – particularly if the hay and straw can be moved directly from the field into your shed as this avoids the cost of double handling.
- Get the best quality – the discerning buyers will book the best fields – hay and straw that has not been rained on while on the ground. This should avoid dusty and musty bales in your shed. Musty hay and straw is not only potentially a health hazard to both you and your donkeys but produces a lot of waste.
- Ensure your supply – by the end of last winter there was a shortage of hay and straw in many counties.
- After your hay and straw has been delivered, give it plenty of ventilation by leaving doors and windows open. This allows any pockets of moisture to escape and should avoid the bales “heating” if the hay has been well saved. After a few days feel for moisture and/or heat in the bales and if there is none you can secure your shed.
- The dross or waste hay on the floor of your shed from last season often contains a lot of grass seed. Sweep it up. Most of us have bare patches, often around a gateway that got muddy over the winter, give it a quick rake and scatter the dross over the area. Hopefully the grass seed will grow and give you a nice green gateway again.