Last year was the first year I was equipped to buy grain in bulk. I price-compared the two feed mills closest to me- close being a relative term. Wolfkill in Stanwood turned out to be cheaper than Conway Feed, so that’s where I went. Either place is about a 45 minute drive for me.

This year, Wolfkill has closed down and Conway’s prices are still high. And of course, higher than last year. I need more grain than last year, so was looking at making two trips to Conway, which pretty much kills a whole weekday and uses a lot of gas in our flatbed truck. There is Cargill in Burlington (even further), and I did call them; but the salesperson promised to call back with pricing, and never did. What to do…

I decided to call our local farm supply cooperative, Snohomish Co-Op, to see what they could come up with. I’ve started to order more things from there, because they can usually give me a pretty good deal. I figured out that buying vaccines from them is the same price as the cheapest Internet sources I could find. They were able to price delivered hay competitively this summer. Plus, they are five minutes away from me, so it’s just so convenient.

Ordering feed in bulk is new to them, in a way. Of course the reason the store exists is that originally it was a feed-buying cooperative. Those days have long since disappeared as large-scale agriculture has dwindled in our county. But now the pendulum is swinging, and apparently I’m not the only one asking. They’ve had some craft liquor distilleries looking for grain too (those are springing up all over now that the law was changed to allow them). And there is some promise of filling part of the niche that Wolfkill was occupying. So they are trying to find some new channels for buying feed in bulk.

It’ll probably take some time to figure this out. They reported that initial phone calls revealed confused grain manufacturers and distributors who aren’t used to these kinds of inquiries and not ready with pricing options. So it turned out, though they could procure bulk “super sacks” of grain for me, it was priced higher than by the 50 pound bag. And 3.5 tons of 50-lb bags was just 1% more than Conway’s bulk price: a whole three dollars more.

I like to buy dry COB (corn-oats-barley) because I feel it’s easy on the sheep and lower risk than high-protein pelleted grains, while offering a good calorie punch. There were some cheaper options. One is some refined who-knows-what grain with molasses made for “all stock.” Curiously, though corn has gotten all the attention in the news with the anticipation of a terrible yield this year, barley is still more expensive. And, oats are costlier still. So I could have bought straight corn, or corn-barley, for a little less from Conway. But then I was back to two trips up there again.

So, this was a no-brainer, I had 3.5 pallets of bags ordered up! It’s a little wasteful in packaging, so hopefully something better will emerge for next year. But it was sure nice to pick up my grain two miles from home! Now I’m set for winter!