Guest Author - Kim Wende
When buying hay during the drought make sure you ask lots of questions. During the drought many of the hay producers around you can't grow hay and you might have to have it trucked in from another state. This happened to me two years in a row.
During a drought there are several brokers a.k.a hay jockeys that go around buying hay from the farmers so be sure to get references from several people as to the quality of the hay and ask lots of questions. If you don't do this, you may get stuck with a bad load of hay that you can't feed to your horses.
You might be saying I would just get my money back from the broker. Let me tell you that is easier said than done. I've heard so many horror stories where people got bad hay and tried their best to get the broker to refund their money with no luck. A lot of these brokers are notorious for putting folks off, hoping to eventually discourage the unsatisfied party enough so that they will eventually quit calling.
Here are a few things to consider when buying hay:
1. Learn something about hay because it is the most important thing in your horse's diet. I see horse owners all the time who buy expensive grain and then buy the cheapest hay they can find. Just remember you get what you pay for. Educate yourself on how it's made so you can have a decent conversation with the farmers who produce the hay. The producers would more than likely enjoy having an intelligent conversation with a horse owner.
2. I don't recommend dealing with the hay brokers unless you absolutely have to. Don't get me wrong as there are some good brokers out there, but there are a lot more that are bad. These brokers are buying other people's hay and reselling it. Often, they never inspect the hay they are buying to resell and to them it's all good. The best bet would be to find local producers so you can see and smell the hay and don't try to get the cheapest price. If you have to buy from another state see if there might be some hay in the state where you have a good friend that can see the hay in person for you.
3. If possible have a covered storage area so you can maintain a five to six month supply (if not more). This will give you the time to develop your network of quality hay producers.
4. Depending on the hay here are some of the questions you might ask: Is there a guarantee against mold? Is it weed and sticker free? Is the hay pure (such as all coastal, alfalfa, etc...)? When was the hay cut? Is this the first cutting? Has it been rained on? Is there a guarantee to return it if the hay is not represented correctly? Last, but not least make sure you get a receipt describing what you purchased with a signature.
With horses it is very important to have a consistent supply of quality hay to avoid colic. Most hay brokers can't give you that, but having a network of good quality hay producers certainly can. Just remember that "horse quality" is a very subjective description that changes from person to person. I've known of people who have fed their horses hay with lots of weeds and other grasses mixed in that I wouldn't feed my own horses. To me, hay like that would be for cows or goats, but to that person it was "horse quality".