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Author Topic: How much hay should I get for winter  (Read 1888 times)

Michelle.L.

  • Joined May 2021
How much hay should I get for winter
« on: July 18, 2021, 11:20:56 pm »
The topic pretty much says it all: how much hay should I stock for two wether pet sheep for one winter. We're in the north of Scotland, so winters are usually pretty long. The sheep are just pets, so not for the freezer. Born this year.
From what I have learned from locals in the area it is rather hard to come by hay in midwinter here, so I would like to get enough to last us until spring. Due to the size of our barn I can only get square bales not the large round ones.
Thanks for any advice!

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2021, 12:56:36 am »
The stock answer is 5 small square bales per sheep per winter.
However, it depends on various things.  For example how well packed the bales are, what quality the hay is, which sheep breed your wethers are, whether or not your grass is grazeable at all through the winter, whether you have other sources of food such as willow branches for their minerals and fibre, and basically whether your wethers are greedy feeders or not.


Primitive sheep will eat less per sheep through the winter and will last longer on some standing grass to nibble than commercial breeds of sheep, so will eat less hay. As your sheep are not breeding they will need much less hay over the winter as breeding ewes would be eating for their lambs too, and that calculation is assuming breeding ewes.


Another factor is where you are, you have said northern Scotland, but that's a vast area and the vegetation varies enormously, as does the altitude and local climate.


It's really a question you would be better asking someone more local to you or who knows your land. I am in the south of scotland on great soil with lovely grass, but high and cold with plenty of snow which can lie for ages, so although I am south of you my conditions could be less or more favourable than yours.


So it's a bit like 'how long is a piece of string'  :farmer:


Having said all that, no two winters are the same  ::)




« Last Edit: July 19, 2021, 12:58:40 am by Fleecewife »
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twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2021, 07:16:26 am »
I normally go on 10 small bales per ewe, but that includes bringing them in for lambing (roughly 4 weeks) and then in for a couple weeks at weaning. I donít feed much hay in the fields unless the weather is really really bad.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2021, 09:19:01 am »
I find that very small numbers need more per sheep.  Partly because the amount they waste is disproportionate, and also the scaling up thing (when feeding 20 people you end up with a lot left over if you multiply "enough for 2" by 10.) 

Then I double it if they are going to be kept in and so get nothing from the grass.

Ex-BH's rule of thumb for commercial upland ewes out on grass was 20 sheep eat one small bale a day.  (*)  Mostly sheep aren't interested in hay until some point in December, and most years the grass is enough by about mid-March.  But you don't want to be caught out if we have an early winter and/or a late spring, so budget for at least 4 months.

For 2 wethers I would probably get 20 bales in.  You might have a bit left if the winter is mildish and short, but they can have that first next winter, or, if you don't want to do that, buy hay made from meadow grass not a rye-rich crop, and as long as you store it properly, you could sell any left over in spring for horses.

And then, when the time comes to be feeding it, give them a flap / slice in the morning, spread out along the ground (unless it is too windy), and have a look-see how much is left by early afternoon.  If none, give them another slice in the evening.  If some is left, no more till the next morning, and give them a bit less until they don't leave any. 

When you spread it out, use a bit of fresh ground each time.  They will waste more if they come to old hay or dung while they are eating ;)

Or use a little hay rack or a sheep haynet.  They do seem to waste more that way, but sometimes it can't be helped if it's too windy or the ground is really muddy so the outdoor spread-out way doesn't work.

Once they have learned to love their hay, you may find you don't need to spread it out, they will eat it off the slice.  Then you can just put a slice down on the ground even if it's windy. 

Come spring, rake up all the detritus as soon as you can; old hay left lying chokes the grass and eventually wrecks the soil's ability to drain.

(*)  Our moorland Swaledales ate about half this much.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2021, 09:21:14 am by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
  • Leicester
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2021, 09:23:13 am »
For zero grazing goats it's a bale per week per 2 goats (large dairy goats). It could be a bit different for your situation - how much grazing will you have available , what breed/size they are etc
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2021, 09:29:13 am »
Oh, one more thing.  When fed hay in nets or racks, sometimes they decide it's not nice before the net or rack is empty.  So every few days, empty it right out and refill with fresh. (*)  If they are indoors, spread what you took out on the ground, they may pick out some nice bits and the rest can add to their bedding.  If they are outside, only spread it if you are happy that some will be left on the ground.  Otherwise compost it.

Same applies to the little shelf of the hay rack - clean it out once a week or so.  They waste more if bits land on hay they've already decided isn't nice. 

And if you want to sell their fleeces, use one of the small hole flat nets not a rack or a round net.  Neck wool is nice wool, but not if it's full of hay seeds, and not if it's been rubbed as they reach through big holes....

(*)  Although I wouldn't fill a rack for 2.  I would put out each day what I expect them to eat each day.  They will waste less and you can monitor how much they are eating better.  And hay that's been out for a few days is less appealing than fresh, so that is when the waste starts to increase.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2021, 10:12:49 am by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2021, 09:30:09 am »
For zero grazing goats it's a bale per week per 2 goats (large dairy goats). It could be a bit different for your situation - how much grazing will you have available , what breed/size they are etc

You'd be feeding cake to the goats as well, though?  They'd need more hay if not getting any cake.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
  • Leicester
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2021, 09:49:05 am »
For zero grazing goats it's a bale per week per 2 goats (large dairy goats). It could be a bit different for your situation - how much grazing will you have available , what breed/size they are etc

You'd be feeding cake to the goats as well, though?  They'd need more hay if not getting any cake.
Yes I feed them calf nutlets, but also ivy, brambles, allotment scraps and whatever else available around during the winter.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2021, 10:03:01 am »
Ex-BH's rule of thumb for commercial upland ewes out on grass was 20 sheep eat one small bale a day.

That seems about right. Last winter we had eighteen Zwartbles who ate not quite a bale a day.


Same applies to the little shelf of the hay rack - clean it out once a week or so.  They waste more if bits land on hay they've already decided isn't nice.

That's good advice - thanks Sally!  I hadn't thought of that before, but it makes sense.
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2021, 12:16:35 pm »
The stock answer is 5 small square bales per sheep per winter.




























So it's a bit like 'how long is a piece of string'  :farmer:


Having said all that, no two winters are the same  ::)


It depends very much on your breed, weight of bale  and length of winter.


My sheep are commercial breeds - Suffolk and Texel cross and 2 of them would eat a 25kg bale of hay/week. I would allow for a winter of at least 22 weeks. Better to have a few bales left over than run out with another month to go.   
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

Michelle.L.

  • Joined May 2021
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2021, 04:31:42 pm »
Thanks for the advice everyone! Really helpful  :thumbsup:
Mine are Cheviots. And I did ask local farmers but as their sheep are all breeding of course they do feed differently, so I though it might be a good idea to ask on here as well :-). I think I'll go for 20 bales...

needlesboots and whistles

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2021, 03:48:54 pm »
Do any of you manage to keep your hay in a stack outside? I am also in Northern Scotland and looking to start a small flock with 4 primitive sheep in the autumn.

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
  • Leicester
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2021, 11:46:38 pm »
I keep mine inside a converted chicken aviary with a thick tarpaulins as roof.
It it kept dry so not outside.
If you keep it outside in places like Canada - fine. It will be frozen and dry. In the UK - no chance. Hay will rot in no time.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2021, 08:26:22 am »
Do any of you manage to keep your hay in a stack outside? I am also in Northern Scotland and looking to start a small flock with 4 primitive sheep in the autumn.
Noooooo youíll ruin it quicker than anything. You can get away with storing straw outside accepting the edges will spoil. Hay needs to be tucked inside a shed.

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cattle and sheep!
Re: How much hay should I get for winter
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2021, 05:16:25 pm »
I'm old school and would rather have too much! Nothing worse than running out of fodder and then finding the prices skyrocket just because you want 1 bale at a time. Of course having too much can be annoying because everyone is in the same boat and had a good harvest so don't need it so you can't sell it. Animals, you can't win!

We used to buy Hay in (small bales), the one bay could store 400! So I paid £800 the 1st year, £950 the 2nd, gulped when I handed over £1300 the 3rd! My sheep didn't like silage (we had more cattle then!) What also annoyed me was watching the beggars WASTE my money. Beautiful green hay, pull a mouthful out  of the cratch, spit it out, tread on it! Bad enough when they do it with my hay but when I buy it in???

We switched to doing our own hay after that, and if we needed silage, go buy it as and when, by the bale!
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!

 

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