I visited Steele Farm a few times this week to snatch up the last hay I’ll need for the winter. Helen introduced me to her flock and I joined her as she led them out to pasture. Thirty-something sheep is too many sheep, she joked with me, as we watched her 18-yr-old ewe shuffle out, behind the others.
This old girl has survived a broken leg, as well, and is still hanging in there. And I thought my ten-year-old girls were old. The hay I bought from Helen was last year’s second-cut, perfectly fine hay. The sheep like it. Her pastures have a wide diversity of species and it shows in her hay. There is a lot of texture and shape within the bale. Our sheep are out on pasture all day but when they come in for the night, they’ve been crushing the small amount I leave for them in the feeder, as well. It must be yummy.
Satisfied with my first batch, I returned for another. After I loaded up, Helen showed me her grill, racked with roasting lamb bones. This is the first step for her beloved bone broth, a popular item she sells. I watched the grease splatter and smoke while we talked predators. Yes, bears like the chickens, but electric fence seems to keep them back. Coyotes can hop the tensile fence, but can never seem to get back out. They don’t seem to bother the chickens, but can go for lambs, so be mindful of that.
Someday we’ll have a livestock guardian dog – we even have a name picked out. But it might be a few years. For now, we just let the dogs go potty all over the place – and hey, maybe I will too, occasionally. Tell those coyotes who lives here.
I asked how many bales she’d think I’d need to feed four sheep for five months and she told me the rule of thumb is 2% of the sheep’s body weight per day in hay. I ran some numbers when I got home: A Romney ewe can weigh as much as 200 lbs, even though three of the lambs are not quite that big. But at that weight, each sheep needs about 4 lbs of hay per day. Multiply by 4 sheep then multiply by 30 days then multiply by 5 months! Then divide by 40 lbs, which is the average size of a hay bale. And we have 60 bales. After this second hay run (and the two I’ve made to another farm in Center Harbor), I now have 142 bales of hay in my barn.
That’s enough hay, I think. It feels good to cross hay off my to-do list – it has been bothering me for a few months now. Joke’s on me, though, because I bought so many. But abundance is good. The hay will get eaten. It will also make nice bedding. The chickens will enjoy laying
their eggs in it, as well. And oh, the barn smells oh so nice.