When I am asked where I go to get feed, I know what the comment will be: “oh, that’s far away!”
Here’s the scoop: when my mare was sick and I needed a low-starch feed, I called, visited, etc… between 12-15 feed stores. All of them (except the two I will be mentioning) were not helpful. I am talking butt-ignorant about what they were selling and not willing to even try to order what I needed. That was before low-starch feeds hit the market and so these same people will now trot out what is popular!
Think I hold a grudge? No, I call it loyalty to those who helped during a time of need. Feed stores don’t have a huge markup; my loyalty to them, especially during these times, is important to the health of their business.
The feed store, MAF, where I buy the majority of my horse feed, fly spray, shampoo (when not doing it online) worked with me. They went out of their way, made some calls and ordered special stuff. Since it was a mill, they could really tell me what I was getting vs. the other feed stores that just parroted what the feed salesman (who offered thems some coupons and a free bucket) told them.
MAF is 35 miles one way, all 4-lane highway, north of here. I try to meet a friend at lunch that direction or go visit one of the antique stores on the trip. The pine shavings bags run $3 a bag cheaper; the fly spray brand I use runs $4-6 cheaper a bottle; buckets are cheaper, etc… so to me, even though it is a bit out of the way, if I go twice a month and buy in bulk, it’s cost-effective, as well as showing my loyalty.
SFS which, the same people who say MAF is too far, is the same distance! But people think it’s closer just because they are more familiar with that side of town. It is a four lane, turnpike road except for the last mile.
It is run by a family and they have also been very helpful to me. Their hay is significantly better then the BFS which is quite closer. It is fun to go there with kids as they often have chickens and bunnies, as well as their cat, Big Momma (which is the scruffiest, limp-looking kitty I have seen – sometimes I wonder if it isn’t someone’s old throw pillow that just came out of the wash).
BFS which people like because it is close is run by the rudest and most unhelpful staff possible. I only go there in dire emergency, and I guess I haven’t been there in over a year even though it is 20 minutes away. It actually takes longer to get there as it is accessbile only through a four lane road that has stops every half or quarter mile, and goes through a town.
Some things I take into consideration:
1.) Availability of the feeds I like and willingness to order the supplements I want.
2.) Honesty in telling me about the quality and availability of stuff that fluctuates such as hay and shavings (we went through a 2-year period where pine shavings were extremely hard to find). I have them all on my speed dial, so before I make a trip, I need someone who actually answers the phone (!) and who can tell me accurately if they have alfalfa (and yes, I have shown up and they had none, when I was told they had a truckload!).
3.) Willingness to talk with me about what they have instead of brushing me off because I’m not part of the Good Ole’ Boy network. Unfortunately, a lot of feed stores have the Worst Customer Service ever! and haven’t figured out that urban horses are willing to shell out big bucks, whereas (real) farm people see animals as expendable and generally don’t shell out except for the basics.
4.) What they do when I get food that is not acceptable. This has only happened a few times but do they make good? Do they give me an exchange and/or money back?
5.) Knowledge. Although, I don’t rely upon them to tell me which feeds are “best” (I research that myself), I do want them to be familiar with the product, and most importantly be able to give me the low down (hmmm gossip) about what is happening in the community. What barns, trainers, farriers do they recommend?
To me, the people at a feed store are as important to me as my vet and farrier. I considered them part of the essential network I need to care for my horses properly