Just How Itchy Can Hay Be?

A few weeks ago, our horse friends, the Watsons, told us they had a source for hay. We were pretty excited, because east Tennessee and everywhere around it has been in the grip of a major drought for months, so hay is getting to be alarmingly scarce, and expensive when you can find it. Jeff Watson knew someone at work who was cutting hay for the first time (the VERY first time) and would let us pick it up in the field for $2 a bale! There were wildly varying estimates of how much hay would be available, from about 250 bales to about 1,000 bales. The fact that the hayfield owner couldn’t narrow it down to within 750 bales should have been a red flag, I guess. Shari asked Jeff to make sure that the hay was good stuff; Jeff was assured that it was. So after a couple of weeks of scheduling problems, we finally made it out there about a month ago.

It was about an hour from our house. We brought 3 trailers in case the 1,000-bale estimate was closest. When we got to the field, it was about half the size of, and as hilly as, our own pasture. That is to say, maybe 3 acres with very rolling hills. What we could see looked to be about 150 bales. And the parts that weren’t mowed yet were just as brushy and weedy as our pasture, too.

An hour later, we had 189 bales and were glad there weren’t more. This hay is full of goodness-knows-what. There’s some good hay in there, but there are sticks and twigs and spiky stuff too. And something that we guess is poison ivy, because poor Bill ended up with a rash wherever he wasn’t covered, and I didn’t – it seems that I’m one of those lucky people who aren’t sensitive to poison oak or poison ivy, because whenever Bill, the Kid and I have accidentally blundered into a patch of either one, only Bill suffers (a little bit of trivia: we’re told that Native Americans are naturally resistant to poison oak and poison ivy, and I’m part Cherokee and Osage – as is the Kid, since he’s my…kid).

Anyway…so we have 99 bales of $2 hay, and we may have overpaid. Our barn is full (of hay that only I can touch), and the horses have been eating it for about a month now with no ill effects, but we are definitely going to look elsewhere for good hay for the winter, when their nutritional needs are so dependent on the forage we provide.

I just want to be clear, though – we are VERY glad to have this hay, despite the problems, and relieved that we have some when so many people are having to sell their horses because they can’t find or buy hay.  But, as is the case most of the time, you get what you pay for.

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