I'm feeding fourth cutting alfalfa that smells like sunshine and the warm October day that it was baled. It's leafy and green and makes me momentarily forget the weeks of frozen water buckets.
I usually reserve the rich third and fourth cutting alfalfa hay for the nursing ewes, but weeks of sub-freezing temperatures have meant the sheep need extra calories.
Sheep eat like children, picking out the best morsels of food first, leaving the least desirable pieces behind. When given first cutting hay, they root through and find the alfalfa first, then the tender dried grass. Later, if still hungry, they might eat the tougher pieces -- unless they have walked on it, and then it goes to waste.
Not so with fourth cutting alfalfa hay.
The spouse calls it candy hay.
I sometimes wonder if it melts in their mouths. For an hour after I feed, it is gone. There are no pieces or morsels next to the feeders.
And the sheep are always crying for more, more.
Yesterday, I was feeling generous and gave Jet, the Haflinger, a half flake of the alfalfa hay. I tossed it next to the feed pan, filled with grain.
She left the grain to eat the hay.
Maybe it reminds her, too, of sunshine and warm fall days, and hope for the tender green shoots of spring grass.