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PNW - Eastern vs. Western WA Hay

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  • PNW - Eastern vs. Western WA Hay

    Recently moved here from the south with a hard keeper who hates stemmy hay and I'm having an issue finding a hay supplier and trudging through this 'eastern vs. western' debate that I'm hearing. Is the soil really so poor that none of the western WA hay is any good? Or are really knowledgeable/good hay supplies just few and hidden? I recently found someone within an hour that sells a timothy/orchardgrass/vetch mix - but I can't find much information on vetch. Anyone know about this?

    I'm in the Tacoma/Olympia area and I can only store 24 bales max, so about a ton from the current sources. But they've all sold out for the season... and I am running out fast so I may have to bite the bullet and by from a feed store at their ridiculous mark-up.

  • #2
    No one grows hay in Western WA, it rains too much. It isn't the soil, it's the weather. The stuff that gets baled on this side of the mountains is called "local hay" I would only use it to supplement an air fern. There is a reason why it is very cheap, relatively speaking. It is typically done by a farmer who needs to mow some fields and bales the stuff up and sells it, or feeds it to cattle. Not dairy cows, beef cattle, they can eat anything.

    Eastern WA hay or Oregon hay is farmed properly, those folks are in the business of growing hay. The weather is great for growing really good hay, the fields are properly managed and it is their crop, to be sold. Yes it costs more but more thought and planning went into it as well as money to get it from seed/plant to the end customer.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by rlmatherly View Post
      Is the soil really so poor that none of the western WA hay is any good?
      Some hay is good. I would say most is not. I don't know that I would attribute it to the soil (I am not super knowledgeable about the agricultural breakdown in Washington by region, so the following is just a guess), I would say that it's more that the Western side of the mountains is more populous so there is less agricultural land and therefore less land for growing hay as other crops/products have more 'priority'.

      Or are really knowledgeable/good hay supplies just few and hidden?
      Yes they are few and hidden or already have a customer base that purchases their hay.

      I'm in the Tacoma/Olympia area and I can only store 24 bales max, so about a ton from the current sources. But they've all sold out for the season... and I am running out fast so I may have to bite the bullet and by from a feed store at their ridiculous mark-up.
      I would say that you may have to buy from the feed store. Also, Craigslist can be your friend. BUT, fair warning, if you do this, you will have to go look at the hay before you buy it/have it delivered.

      On a side note re: the hay in WA, I have heard from several people that the hay from eastern Washington used to be plentiful and cheap but now buyers are coming from overseas (read: China and Japan) and paying ridiculous sums for hay that is still growing in the field (yes, before it is even cut an baled). I don't know how true this is but I have heard it from multiple separate sources.
      "Be the change you want to see in the world."
      ~Mahatma Gandhi

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      • #4
        It depends on if the westside hay is farmed or just a field of native grasses cut and baled. Farmed Western hay can be quite good, but if NSC is a concern, do have it tested as it can be high. Also, it is often cut late, and can get stemmy and not as green as some Eastside hay. Most hays on the Westside are a "pasture" or "hay" mix, not straight orchard or timothy. Vetch is a legume similar to adding alfalfa or clover to a mix. Some horses like it, some don't.

        I use Eastern orchard/alfalfa because it packs a steady nutrient load, is usually farmed and put up correctly, comes in 120lb.+ bales (easier to fit 5 tons in my barn) and my hay man guarantees all the bales.
        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Seal Harbor View Post
          No one grows hay in Western WA, it rains too much. It isn't the soil, it's the weather. The stuff that gets baled on this side of the mountains is called "local hay" I would only use it to supplement an air fern. There is a reason why it is very cheap, relatively speaking. It is typically done by a farmer who needs to mow some fields and bales the stuff up and sells it, or feeds it to cattle. Not dairy cows, beef cattle, they can eat anything.
          I have to disagree. Our barn uses several hay growers on the western side of the mountains that have LOVELY hay.
          "Be the change you want to see in the world."
          ~Mahatma Gandhi

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          • #6
            Not true Seal harbor, there are several actual farmers of very good hay on the wet side. The first to come to mind is Andrew's Hay in Arlington. He has a couple hundred acres and farms orchard grass that is comparable to eastern WA hay. We get our hay from a Darrington farmer and it is a good quality timothy that all the horses adore and do well on. Yes, there are more farmers on the east side and generally their product is quite good but it is expensive.

            There is a farmer in Graham that you may want to check out. He advertises on CL as "Hay Day at the Farm" and he grows nice hay as well.
            Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert

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            • #7
              I've always purchased Eastern hay (WA or OR, no difference as far as I'm concerned) as there is a pretty big quality difference in the loads that I've seen. My hay guy was getting out of the business last fall and I took 5 tons of Western OR orchard grass, not realizing that he was down to his last connections. It was "okay." Horses had to eat 2x the normal amount to maintain weight, and I would have been fine with it if I had all air ferns. But boy I had to burn through it at a crazy rate, and I had to bring in alfalfa to supplement my TB since he wouldn't eat enough to keep weight on. And it was from a good farm in W OR that grows hay purposefully (as opposed to just knocking down fields, which a lot of folks around here do).

              I didn't realize just *how* different the quality was until I got in my new load of Eastern WA orchard grass. It looks like straw versus grass, and while I realize that you can't tell much by the color (and I've had some loads of "ugly" hay that were really good quality), this stuff was just bad in comparison. Once they had the new hay I couldn't get them to eat any of the W OR stuff. Which, again, would have been fine if they were all fatties, but they're not.

              So my preference is almost always Eastern hay over Western. Yes, you can find the occasional good batch of west-side hay, but I think that's the exception more than the rule, and possibly because the really good growers already have buyers lined up.

              besttwtb - My understanding is that used to be the case (Pacific Rim reserving/buying up a lot of hay) several years ago, but that it's not a big issue any longer.
              __________________________________
              Flying F Sport Horses
              Horses in the NW

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              • #8
                On the contrary, the export market for Eastern WA/OR hay remains very strong. The vast majority of alfalfa and timothy is now shipped across the US or to Pacific Rim countries. My hay man struggles to get loads from farmers who have any left after their hay is sold (mostly before the fields are even harvested, on contract). With drought in Australia and Russia, the rise of China's industrial complex, the hay available in Asia/Pacific countries remains unstable. The hay compressors are working hard to squeeze those bales down and get them loaded on container ships.

                Wheat prices skyrocketing also changed some hay ground to producing for the export market as well. Of course the fickle weather often ruins the first cutting of alfalfa in the Basin, too. With diesel and fertilizer at record highs, the costs of hay production are passed along to us, the consumer. Locally, the land that was once agricultural now is covered with houses, and the farmers are so elderly that no one puts up decent hay. Sad.
                Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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                • #9
                  Calvincrowe is correct-a friend of mine raises hay near Colville and that's exactly what he says too. He puts up beautiful beautiful hay and he doesn't price it super high-he sells out pretty quick!

                  You might check Idaho, I know it's a drive but if you fill the horse trailer you might find it's worth it.

                  We're having to drive from NW Montana to Idaho for good hay. Around here they put up swamp grass and it has little or no nutrition in it. We have two milk cows and we need the alfalfa... so we drive.
                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

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                  • #10
                    There *is* good western wa hay, its just that it sells fast and no one (who's smart) will give up their sources

                    That said, E Wa hay is just more consistent unless you have a good dealer on the west side.
                    I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.

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                    • #11
                      A few growers on this side of the mountains does not an industry make, and they couldn't feed numerous barns with 20+ horses year around. Most of the larger barns are buying from East of the Cascades.

                      A handful of growers can't supply everyone on this side.

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        So would anyone feed the orchard grass/timothy/vetch from western WA if it looks good? Not straw-stemmy but with good leaves and color from a field seeded for this mix?

                        It's from a local dairy farmer who has downsized and now sells off the extra now that the cows aren't eating all the hay baled from their hay pastures... if that helps since someone mentioned that they have to get alfalfa for their dairy cows.
                        Last edited by rlmatherly; Mar. 20, 2013, 12:50 AM. Reason: forgot source

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Seal Harbor View Post
                          No one grows hay in Western WA, it rains too much. It isn't the soil, it's the weather. The stuff that gets baled on this side of the mountains is called "local hay" I would only use it to supplement an air fern. There is a reason why it is very cheap, relatively speaking. It is typically done by a farmer who needs to mow some fields and bales the stuff up and sells it, or feeds it to cattle. Not dairy cows, beef cattle, they can eat anything.

                          Eastern WA hay or Oregon hay is farmed properly, those folks are in the business of growing hay. The weather is great for growing really good hay, the fields are properly managed and it is their crop, to be sold. Yes it costs more but more thought and planning went into it as well as money to get it from seed/plant to the end customer.
                          yes and no, as others have chimed in, I'll add my two cents. There is a lot of very good hay here (of course we are not as wet as other WeWa places). This used to be a big dairy area and tehy know how to make good hay.... The local orchard and orchard alfalfa mixes can be way too good for some of the horses.... I can keep my hard keeper TB in great shape on local hay. I have never been able to do that before..... but, there is a lot of local "hay" too. that stuff won't even keep my Fjord in shape....

                          But the good suppliers run out early, so for the OP, this is a bad time of year to try and get hay. I buy mine all in the fall and have it delivered over the winter as I need it...that way I know I won't run out.
                          Turn off the computer and go ride!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rlmatherly View Post
                            So would anyone feed the orchard grass/timothy/vetch from western WA if it looks good? Not straw-stemmy but with good leaves and color from a field seeded for this mix?

                            It's from a local dairy farmer who has downsized and now sells off the extra now that the cows aren't eating all the hay baled from their hay pastures... if that helps since someone mentioned that they have to get alfalfa for their dairy cows.
                            If it looks good I would not hesitate to feed it to my horses.
                            "Be the change you want to see in the world."
                            ~Mahatma Gandhi

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I think that would be excellent for horses-we used to feed our horses the straight alfalfa hay that we got for our milk cows and the horses never looked better!

                              Wish I had some of that hay now! I have to drive to Idaho for hay in a snowstorm today...
                              “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by rlmatherly View Post
                                So would anyone feed the orchard grass/timothy/vetch from western WA if it looks good? Not straw-stemmy but with good leaves and color from a field seeded for this mix?

                                It's from a local dairy farmer who has downsized and now sells off the extra now that the cows aren't eating all the hay baled from their hay pastures... if that helps since someone mentioned that they have to get alfalfa for their dairy cows.
                                I absolutely would. At least give it a try. The guy in Graham mentioned above is a good supplier too, though I don't know what he'd have this late in the season. I got my last load from him a couple of weeks ago but I suspect that he may have put it aside for me, since I am a repeat (and reliable) customer.
                                Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.
                                Starman

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