The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How much hay do goats need for the winter?

Goat straining for hay

The world is green, the grass is lush...and now's the time to stock up on hay for the winter. But how much will we need?

You'd think that my relentless recordkeeping would have the answer to that question since we've already enjoyed one winter with goats. But we bought hay a bit at a time last year, and I have just a vague memory of using two bales per week for our herd of two during the peak of winter's cold. That was before we lowered our hay-wastage with a better manger, and I don't have solid estimates on hay usage during the shoulder seasons, though. So I'm not really sure how many bales we went through in the end and how that will relate to years to come.

Stacking hay

Luckily, the internet is always willing to come to the rescue. Various websites suggest that a full-size goat will eat about 5 pounds of hay per day and a dwarf will eat about 3 pounds per day. Since our goats are semi-dwarfs and I figure we have to feed them hay for about 6 months out of the year, I'm guessing we might need about 29 bales (roughly 50 pounds apiece, $6.50 per bale from the feed store).

On the other hand, good hay is much easier to find at this time of year than if you run out in March, so I'd really like to have more like 40 bales on hand for safety's sake. We've learned that our kidding stall holds 27 bales...but that the girls like to nibble down the edges (far more fun than eating out of the manger), bringing the actual stored total closer to 25 bales. Time to find a dry, accessible place to store another 15 bales of hay!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I have 2 large goats. Last winter wasting a lot of hay we went through 2/3rds of a large round bale. Luckily the hay came from our own field so did not cost us anything.

Just think even if you don't use it all this winter it can be good mulch for your garden. We have used a lot of the hay this year on the garden. It does strongly lower the weed amount even though it is hay instead of straw.

Comment by BW Mon Aug 24 12:36:36 2015

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