Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Washington, USA.
Going the free-choice hay route.
I'm considering going to free-choice hay, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to go about it. I have two shelters. One they have access to 24/7, it's a 12X12 stall open to the pasture. The other is a maybe 10X8 three-sided lean-to type thing in the further back pasture that they only have access to during the day. At night, I pull them from that pasture and keep them in the front one.
I'm going into winter, which means lots and lots of rain for WA, so leaving a round bale outside is asking for trouble. But I fear the shelters are too small, and the hay would be ruined between them using the stall as a bathroom in nasty weather [god forbid they get wet when they have to poo] and tracking mud through it.
I was thinking about getting a big camping-like tent that I could use in the pasture, do you think that would work better? That way, they can walk in and out of the shelters, continue to potty in them when they deem it necessary, and I wouldn't have to risk them tracking too much mud into the hay.
Also, I'm not sure I could get a roundbale. Could I just throw out, say, half a bale and add to it accordingly so they always have more then they can eat? Or do you think that would get too expensive?
Should I slowly introduce more hay? Or can I start with half a bale? [Note: I currently go through about 4 flakes a day.] I know changes in diet should be made gradually, but I'm not sure it applies to grass hay in this situation. Maybe silly, but worth asking all the same.
My grandparents should be bringing me hay towards the end of the month. Alfalfa. I know I can't free-feed that, but can I put a flake or two out at a time? So they can go through it? It's free hay, and not bad stuff either.
Last question, I promise! If I cannot get started on this free-choice route until closer to next summer, should I still keep it covered? If the sun bleaches it, would it ruin the nutrtion of the hay? I would still only throw out half a bale at a time [these are 80-100lb bales, by the way].
Cookies to those that read this, and my sincerest gratitude for anyone that can offer input. I'm really interested in trying this, but I'm not about to get started only half-cocked, or however that saying goes. =]
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."