The Hay Bale

Ben turned his pickup around carefully because Wayne’s dog was barking and running circles around it. When the truck was in a good spot, Ben got out while Wayne, with a hay spear on his tractor, picked a large round bale of peanut hay from his warehouse. The dog watched Ben carefully. A large, black cow chewed quietly nearby, and three other’s slowly walked along a hill in the distance. Ben didn’t know how far back Wayne’s farm went.

The Dakota sunk a bit as Wayne carefully dropped the bale in the bed. Ben reached into his pocket and pulled out two twenties, which the big dog sniffed at. Wayne backed his tractor up and turned it off. “How you doing, Ben?” They hadn’t spoken since an earlier phone call. “Fine, how about you?” Wayne climbed down from the tractor and they shook hands.

“Have you gotten any bad bales?”, Wayne asked.

“Well the last one was a bit moldy”, said Ben.

It was understatement. The middle was dark, moist, and embedded with white mold that broke into smoky dust when it dried. Had it been the first bale Ben ever got from Wayne he wouldn’t have come back for a second. But it wasn’t the first. Ben had been getting hay from Wayne ever since Mark and Tina mentioned him, and that must have been at least two years before. Ben was happy enough with Wayne not to make a fuss over one moldy bale.

“I ran into a few like that”, Wayne said, “I couldn’t tell from looking at them, but when I got into them I saw they were bad.”

Ben agreed and said, “It was O.K. on the outside. They ate most of it.” Ben was referring to his goats. He had given his goats most of the hay but eventually decided he just couldn’t give them any more. Mold can kill livestock.

Wayne said, “Why don’t you just take that bale.”

Ben was surprised. “OK”, he said. “Thank you. Very much”.

“Well I just want to do what’s right”, said Wayne.

They said goodbye and Ben got back in his truck. As he drove off he thought, “Huh, I should mention this in my blog.”

Wayne Byrum is one of the last American farmers not to be consumed or run off by food factories. His farm is in Gates, North Carolina. He sells high quality pastured beef from cattle that aren’t confined in feed lots. He also sells goats and, of course, hay. His number is 252-357-1742.

Feeding Goats during a Drought

Except for Winter, when we buy peanut hay, we feed the goats by moving them around. We can usually leave them in one spot for about three days but there’s been so little grass growing lately that there isn’t even enough food in a paddock to last a day. So we’ve been augmenting with trees and branches. The two strategies involved are 1) to put them in woody areas and 2) to cut trees and branches and toss them in.

Putting them in woody areas means going in with an ax and a machete to clear a path for the electric net. It’s a lot of work and running the net through the woods is a pain because it gets caught up easily. We put them at the edge of the woods, so their area is half in and half out. That leaves a clear spot for the shed. It’s a lot of work but it’s good for a couple of days.

Tossing in small trees and branches is quicker but has to be done every day. We do this when we run out of woody areas that we’re willing let the goats clear-cut. I can go into the woods and select straggly trees and branches to prune.

Either way it’s a lot of work but the fact that I can do it is one of the things that I like about goats.

Somewhat Free Range Goats

We move the goats about every four to seven days. We move them more when the grass and weeds grow slowly but then we stop moving them when the winter comes and we feed them hay that we usually get from Wayne Byrum. If we neglect to move them when the greenery gets scarce, they will jump over or crawl under the net. So the little zap that the charger provides doesn’t amount to maximum security measures.

When we move them, we let them out for a couple of hours while we take down the net, move their little shed with the tractor, and reassemble the net, the charger, the waterer, etc. With a little shake of the food can they come running back home where, even with their little brains, I think they know they’ll be closed in for another few days, and don’t seem to mind.

I doubt I can call them “free range”, but even within the hundred square feet or so that they have, they can run around and butt heads. I don’t provide access to information media, so they have nothing to compare themselves to, but I think they’re happy.