When Duncan lived in Flagstaff (well, I was there, too!), he ate bermuda hay. After years of irritated digestion on grass hay in the east, he settled in to digestion of a robust nature, and we were happy.
Then came a dry year, so I started raising my awareness of other forage options. I added beet pulp to his diet, and he did well on that, too–and I used bermuda pellets with a bit of alfalfa in them, because they had a guaranteed content, unlike our bales of bermuda, and I wanted some constancy in his nutrients. But on the whole, it was about the bermuda hay.
THEN we moved to New Mexico, where there’s a ton of alfalfa (which Duncan can’t eat), and no particular supply of bermuda. A big chunk of my time became devoted to figuring out what was available here, how much it cost, and how well it might sit with Duncan; I ended up with timothy hay.
Along the way he colicked and kind of should have died but didn’t. So I tried soaking hay (for short periods, for long periods…in sub-zero weather, through the summer…there is no good way to do it). I tried free-feeding with Nibble Nets–and I still think this is the bestest possible option, supposing you don’t have a horse who’s such an air fern that it just won’t work. I still use the Nibble Nets, because they’re awesome, but I have to meter out the hay.
I tried regular timothy and compressed timothy and Triple Crown feeds and different hay pellets and different combinations of beet pulp, but his digestion never straightened out. He not only colicked again, he showed signs of ulcers, so I added slippery elm into the mix. And then, finally–FINALLY–I got my hands on bermuda hay, and the world started to right itself again. All is well in Duncan’s tummy world.
But along the way I did a lot of research into commercial forage products. We not only have no pasture in this area, we have the ongoing and horrifying drought that hits horse owners right in the pocketbook.
So when the Standlee Hay people dropped by (well, in email), and asked if I’d like to try some product ($120 worth) in exchange for a review, I said, “Heck yes.”
For one thing, the compressed timothy sitting in my barn is from Standlee, and I love that stuff. Duncan loves it, too–he just can’t have it as his primary hay. But shoot–it’s tidy, it’s easy to stack and handle, it fits in my admittedly limited hay stall space, and the price isn’t that much more than other hays around here.
(Those of you who live in hay country have no idea. I’m just sayin’. I pay $30/bale for 3-string bermuda and I’m glad to get it. I could probably get it for less if I bought directly, but I tried and can’t get less than a ton delivered and my barn holds only a fraction of that and Duncan just doesn’t need that much.)
Anyway, I also thought it would just plain be fun, and a great way to learn about what else is out there, and interesting to blog about, too. Little did I know–!
Standlee sent out a nice card with a gift card in it. I ran down to my favorite feed store (Hitchn Post, and they are very cool as you are about to see) and ran into the first obstacle…it can be hard to find a full variety. I suspect certain things are popular in different regions, but that’s a complete and utter guess.
I ended up with timothy pellets, timothy cubes, beet pulp shreds, a bale of compressed alfalfa/grass, and then ordered horse cookies separately.
The Big Haul
I was most interested in the cubes, because it was an entirely different form of food; I thought it might be convenient as a pellet alternative, something for Duncan to sink his teeth into. I think it’s a matter of personal preference, as the pellets and the cubes cost the same by weight. So I opened that bag right up and stuck my face down to inhale of the sweet hay scent–
*cough choke sputter BLEHHH!*
For those of you not used to sticking your nose in horse feed…that is the dreaded Mold Monster at work. Do Not Feed. Do not even keep in barn. RUN AWAY.
And so the inadvertent part of the adventure began, wherein I ran back out to the feed store with all the windows open on my little car–once those bags were open, they were potent–and at Hitchn Post, they totally got into the spirit of the thing. We took down lot numbers, made notes about the logistics of the product’s journey, and slit open the remaining bag to make sure it wasn’t also contaminated. We had no concerns that the bags had gotten wet here, because…hello…long-term drought, no rain for eight months, two percent humidity…
I contacted Standlee on their Facebook page just to see if they could help explain, left a message with the customer service folks via the Standlee web site, and opened the new bag AND–
*cough choke sputter BLEHHH!*
Wherein I discovered that the center of a bag could look fine while the end of the bag was profoundly moldy.
*insert a lot of tedious back-and-forth on the phone to gather more info and ponder options and then…*
I heard from the quality control person at Standlee, who answered all my questions, even the potentially uncomfortable ones. At that point I learned that timothy is a pesky, pesky hay to deal with..and, in fact, this particular product was in the phase-out process for exactly this reason. The whitish nature of the mold meant that the problem happened not at home base (because if that had been the case, the whole bag would have been black, hot, and just more disgusting than I care to imagine), but along the way.
And the way timothy cubes (as opposed to pellets, which don’t do this, or the compressed hay bales, which also don’t do this) manage this is that if they travel from a dry clime to a wet clime to a dry clime…they suck water into themselves from the air along the way. Just like little sentient cubes of greed. THEN they sit in the heat and make mold.
Interestingly, the other hays and hay mixes don’t have this problem…just the straight timothy cubes.
“Don’t mind me…I just got a little thirsty. Go ahead. Feed me to your colic-history horse. I dare you.”
So. By this time I’d gone through all the available local bags–all from the same shipment, all from the same lot–and spent the better part of two work days running back and forth, taking notes, and making phone calls…and I have to admit I wasn’t interested in putting any more time into getting a replacement bag. That was the end of the timothy cube trial.
But the rest of it was all fine! Ready and awaiting Duncan’s eager grinding teeth. And that means another blog tomorrow–!