When it comes to feeding the sheep hay, things have been a little different this year. The whole hay buying deal hasn't been normal this either. Firstly my regular hay guy that I get square bales from didn't put up any squares this year. So I was referred to his brother. The price was nice and they were delivered as usual. However...the bales are nasty, the size of the bales all over the map and so on. Since the sheep aren't bred this year though, there is some leeway with the hay. They are grained daily.
On to the round bales, which is how I primarily feed them over the winter. I've arranged this deal with a local Mennonite that lives just down the road. I buy a bale as needed and his son drives it up and puts it in the sheep paddock. It works great...unless his truck is broken down! I finally got the first bale a few weeks ago, (delivered by a very cold boy on a tractor). Their truck is now fixed, thankfully. The biggest bonus to this system is that my Dad doesn't have to fire up his tractor, and we don't have to wrestle those overly large bales onto the bale buggy. (Last year they wouldn't even fit!)
I expected this bale to last at least three weeks, closer to three and half. As I mentioned though things are different with the hay feeding this year. When I added Callum (horned whether) to the flock and kept two wethered lambs (silly little horns), it made it a bit more complicated. Normally I use a 16 foot cattle panel wrapped around the bale to keep the sheep somewhat contained from the bale. Especially with Callum, this couldn't be done. The sheep have to reach in quite a ways to get the hay, and with his big horns he wouldn't be able to. Not to mention the risk of getting caught up.
These bales are huge. You can see that from the picture of the newly delivered second bale. There are twenty sheep eating off it---15 of those shrimp sized Shetlands. It should have lasted beyond three weeks.
But it got even more complicated. The sheep decided to tunnel under and eat off only one side. The bale became progressively more unstable and dangerous, so I had to tip it on it's side. That is when the fun really began (for the sheep) and they proceeded to pound it to the ground. All the while, I'm telling them through gritted teeth--it will last you for three weeks! I mean it.
I held out to two weeks and three days. They really did eat most of it up and were digging through the wreckage daily. If you look at the photo again where the new bale is, off to the left where most of the sheep are standing was the old bale. Not even a hump left. But I couldn't take the squalls and reproachful looks any longer. And there was that snowstorm that was suppose to move into the area.....
The biggest piggies of the bunch are four out of five of the big white sheep. Gracie (the matriarch) does have some decorum about it all. The other four just eat...and eat...and eat.
But we aren't paying 27.00 every two weeks for a new bale. Three weeks, maybe. So I have a plan. If they continue to abuse the situation, I will have the next bale put in another smaller paddock. They will have access to it during the day, but will be shut out at night. I'll switch their grain feeding from a.m. to p.m. to facilitate getting them away from the hay. That way no more 24/7 gorging. Sounds like a good plan, huh? That is until the sheep stomp all over it.
(Noah, Gabe, Chaco--and if you look closely you'll see more cat legs behind the stove)