“Goats are ruminants like cows are so they have that special digestion,” says Fort Wayne Childcare's Zoo Goatherd Tyler Kelhams. “They require a constant source of hay.”
It's feeding time at Fort Wayne's Children's Zoo and though goats have notoriously iron stomachs Tyler Kelhams has to watch what they eat.
“We got to watch make sure they don't get you know too bloated or anything like that,” he says. “Urinary tracts and stuff like that so diet is definitely important.”
Kelhams herd are just a fraction of the Children's Zoo's feeding needs; giraffes have a special diet, the exotic birds a special diet, even the cows need special feed. And one man is in charge of it all.
“The giraffes need this the zebras the wildebeests the gazelles they need this in their diet,” says Allen County farmer Stan Kruse. “This new variety I planted is some of the leafiest I've ever seen.”
For 40 years Stan Kruse's Northwest Allen County farm has grown the specialty hay, grasses and straw that keep Fort Wayne's zoo animals healthy and happy. This was a family diary farm 40 years ago but when the dairy barn burned Stan's dad sold his hay to the zoo.
“We went from 30 to 40 bales a month to 300-400 a month now,” he says. “If the hay doesn't meet their quality standards then we make adjustments here to our operation to facilitate what they need.”
Stan grows, bales and delivers his feed and bedding by himself, it's all mechanized. And he says says his hay production has stringent quality controls. He takes core samples from each harvest, has them analyzed by experts for protein content and digestibility. The high quality and Stan's attention to detail have created a mutually beneficial relationship with our zoo though Stan says he's not getting rich.
“Oh they've been a fantastic customer. It pays the bills. My dad always said the only wealthy farmer's a dead farmer or one that's smart and sold out.” 'When do you think you might give it up?' we ask. “As long as the body holds out. There's just something about making hay because you're in a constant contest with Mother Nature.
Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country