Does anyone have recommendations on how to find sources for local hay? I've been looking through craigslist and talking to those I know, but sourcing hay is new for me. Specifically I'm looking for super plain grass hay in Southwest VA.
Normally, that's something I leave up to my barn owner, but their normal hay supplier has too rich of hay for my EPSM horse. So, I thought I would try to help them out by looking around as well. Its a small operation and they've been so good about the diet and management changes I've had to give my boy this year, I like to help out wherever I can.
How receptive are most hay farmers to a potential customer asking if they can test the hay prior buying a large quantity? I've got an account with a lab so I can get hay tested for sugar quickly. Soaking the sugar out is only going to be feasible for a couple more months... once winter hits I would be feeding him haysicles!
"There is no certainty, only opportunity" -V, "V for Vendetta"
"I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up." -Tom Lehrer
I found my hay guy through my farrier. I was complaining to him about how hard it was to find the kind of hay I wanted and he'd just been at a barn where some beautiful hay was delivered. He gave me the name of the barn owner, I called her, got the hay guy's number, and I've used him ever since. Farriers are great sources since they get around and in my experience have the real scoop on what goes on at different barns.
Or vet. I work at a vet hospital and one of the equine surgeons heard I was looking for a hay guy and hooked me up. The surgeon knew about him because the hay guy also races horses and had just had a horse in the hospital.
And mine was extremely receptive to me going to his place and buying two bales off him to try before committing. He seemed to expect that. I didn't do actual nutritional testing, for me it was a "taste test" for my horses. The only thing my hay guy asks of me is to give him a couple weeks' notice before I need another load delivered. Other than that he's really easy about everything else.
As above, vet or farrier, or calling around to other barns where you know they feed good hay. I live in the land of orchard only...most horse owners feed it and that's what you can buy, but I don't. I prefer teff when I can find it, or timothy, and that severely limits my options. I'm also feeding an IR horse, so want low sugar, but this year that has been impossible to find (even the teff tested over 16% NSC!).
Some hay growers will have testing available. Others will let you test...I've never had any object to my taking samples. The issue where I am is that often hay moves out so fast, if I wait for test results, the hay will be sold. But I'm often dealing with a middle man as the good hay here is grown on the east side of the cascade mountains and trucked over to my wet side region. Dealing directly with a grower if you can will be more efficient. I have tested locally grown hay and then, I shared results with the grower and they knocked a little off the price to over the testing.
In my area testing won't get you far unless you can arrange to buy it all at once, from the the same field. This is because most hay farmers have or rent fields all over with different soils, planting histories etc. In addition, the timing of the cut can be a big factor in the nuitritional quality and that will depend on the weather and the farmers' schedule.
Does the hayguy for your present barn not have anything except the one type of hay?
Some hay grower/sellers have fields all over creation and may have different hays available if asked.
My current guy sells me the orchard grass/timothy mix I want, but has fields of alfalfa too if I wanted that.
If not, try asking at your local feedstore or visit other barns to ask where they get theirs.
Before I signed on with my current hayguy, I had him deliver 20 bales to see if I liked the quality & (more important) my horses would eat it.
He accomodated me by making this small delivery, but you may need to transport a sample amount yourself.
*friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon: Steppin' Out 1988-2004 Hey Vern! 1982-2009 Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
Have you looked on the Virginia Market News site? They have a hay exchange page.
Where are you in SW VA? I'm on the TN line and get mine (round bales) off of Exit 1/I-81. Lovely, lovely round bales that have been stored out of the weather.
I don't know if they have square bales.