|90-lb grass hay bales on the left, 65-lb alfalfa bales on the right|
Being a commodity, the price of hay is very sensitive to supply and demand. So, with the hot, dry summer we've been having, the hay harvest has suffered and the price has gone up.
My preference is to work with the 60-65 pound, small-square-bales. These are easy to move and come pre-rationed... one flake = one alpaca per day. But these cost more for the farmer to produce.
Last year I bought the larger 90-100 pound, bigger-small-square-bales. These are a little less expensive for the farmer to produce and still relatively easy to move around. But honestly it means I am dragging them. 90-100 pounds is too much for me to lift. The ration is still easy to figure out though... two flakes = three alpacas per day.
This year we had been talking with a couple of other farms about going in together on a full truck-load. One of these friends found a local source of hay/alfalfa mix at a reasonable price.
I prefer to have my grass hay and alfalfa separate because it give more flexibility for meeting feeding requirements. Alfalfa is generally too high in protein to give to non-lactating or pregnant alpacas, but sometimes you have to take what you can find.
What we found were 800-lb large-square-bales (4 ft x 4 ft x 8 ft) and we do not have a tractor or skid-steer to move them.
We figured we would need 14 of these to cover the year. Based on the rough dimensions I determined they should fit in our barn and asked our neighbor if he could unload the truck with his Bobcat. The only question being whether his Bobcat was small enough to go through our barn door... which is only 7.5 feet high.
The answer was yes. So we went to place the order.
The hay was no longer available.
Our friend had a line on another source of the 800-lb large-square-bales hay/alfalfa mix that was much more expensive.
I did a little math and decided that I could get the smaller bales of straight hay and straight alfalfa for about the same price from the feed store.
They came out on Friday.
In hopes that more rain will come and that the hay prices will drop before winter, we only bought a 6-month supply. I hope this bet pays off. Otherwise we'll be paying a lot more to bring us through the winter.
In the meantime, having fresh cut hay in the barn smells oh so good. :-)