It’s hard to decide how much hay to store for winter. It’s cheapest to buy in the summer, so if you don’t store enough and have to buy more at the end of the winter, it costs more. But, if you put up way too much, then you’ve spent money you didn’t need to. And old hay isn’t worth much the following year, so is often just used as bedding material.
Last winter I didn’t need to feed much hay. I kept the sheep up by the house for a few weeks during the flood, and for lambing; and most of the rest of the time there was enough grass. I guess I fed them hay for a few weeks when there was a lot of snow too. I didn’t keep good records, but I think they went through about one 95lb bale of hay per week, for seven sheep-so that’s about two pounds per day per sheep; plus they were getting about 1.5-2 lbs per day of COB grain. So, about four pounds per day on average. I think! But I realize I should have written down more!
What I Thought Midsummer
This summer, I figured on keeping maybe three more ewe lambs, for a total of ten sheep. So, my original hay calculations went something like this. I used a little bit of project management-style math, of considering the best, likely and worst case estimates for hay usage before deciding how much to buy. Best case: I’d only feed them 1.5 bales per week for six weeks; likely case: 2 bales per week for ten weeks, worst case: 2 bales a week for 16 weeks. Then I ran a PERT Weighted Average calculation to decide the happy medium: 15 + 4*20 + 32 all divided by six; that gave me 21 bales; which is about a ton of hay. So that’s how much I originally stored last summer.
Then I Bought and Kept More Sheep!
Now I’m overwintering 18 sheep instead of ten. And I’ve decided to do the calcs a little differently. This time I assumed the average weight of the ewes was 120 pounds, plus the ram at 170 pounds; and figured on them eating 4% of their bodyweight for sixteen weeks (Dec-March). I did some lengthier calculations to account for their grain at the end of pregnancy- gradually raising up to 1.5 lbs per sheep per day and gradually ramping back down again over nine weeks. That gives me about 9,900 pounds of feed they will eight, minus about 1,100 pounds of grain; so just over four tons of hay.
So in October, I went and bought three more tons. I learned that’s about as much has as I have the energy to stack in one day! And, I helped load it as well as unload it. Phew! We always call this kind of workout “farm gym”. 🙂
RCG is Serving Me Well
Now, my calcs are already a bit off, because I wasn’t sure how long the reed canary grass field would last into winter. I had a very good stockpile of graze there, and didn’t put the sheep in until mid-October. I have been rotating them through that pasture one rectangle per week. But reed canary grass gets kind of wilt-ey and brown once temperatures get low, so at best, I was hoping to use it through November. But, it’s actually still looking good and it appears as though the sheep will exhaust that supply in another week. Nice- three more weeks of hay I don’t need to feed!