This year, I decided to get hay from the "big" island - that is Vancouver Island. I really liked the hay I bought there two years ago - it's coarser that I can find here, less seed heads too. So, up at 5 AM to catch the first ferry off, 40 minute drive, loaded 102 bales and back we came!
I will borrow the core bale sampler from the Ministry of Agriculture and test about 15 bales. The hay samples go off to a lab in Ontario and the test results will tell me exactly what's in the hay - protein count, starch and sugar levels and ratio of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper etc.
With these results, I'll know what I'm feeding and whether or not I need to add minerals or balance the diet in any way. Fingers crossed I've got the right stuff!
The people who grow this hay have a diabetic horse. Theoretically, any feed that is safe for horses with insulin resistance, diabetes or laminitis should be okay for donkeys!
What I really like about this hay is that there is very little chaff, which can cause impaction. I think this is partly what happened to Dorica last winter - she gobbled a LOT of barley straw (full of chaff) without drinking enough water - bad combo.
Since then, I have been aware of how much chaff is in many types of grass hay and straw bales. This hay is long, coarse and from appearances at least, looks pretty good. There is a fair bit of Canary reed grass in it, but hopefully that's okay. A mule breeder I met last Fall said to me "best thing to feed mules is slough grass!" By that, I think he means Canary reed grass! We shall see ...
Barley straw should be baled in another month or so and I'll have to get that from "the big island" also.
The hay loft is pretty stuffed at the moment though as I still had about 40 bales of hay plus 8 bales of straw up there before this new load arrived.