Here's How We Roll
June 9, 2023
First off, I should have written this newsletter last winter. As a matter of fact, I should write all our newsletters in the wintertime. Because In Spring and Summer, there’s no time to fart.
We are in haylage-making season. What the heck is haylage? And what exactly are we doing when we say, “I’m sorry. We’ll get back to you because we are busy making hay.”
When making HAY, the grass is allowed to grow taller and even go to seed and cut in very dry conditions. After cutting, it sits in the field for several days, dries out, and dies before baling. This is easier to bale, is more economical to produce, and gives you more dry mass to feed the livestock. But, you need to take care to keep the hay dry all winter and it is not half as nutritious as haylage.
High Quality Haylage
Just like Spring butter is deep yellow and the most nutritious, and yellow egg yolks mean the chickens have been foraging on nutritious, green grass full of omega fatty acids; Spring haylage is the most nutritious. More sun equals more photosynthesis. More moisture equals more live enzymes.
10 Steps to Making High Quality Haylage
Step 1 - Repairing & Preparing Ahead of Time
The mower needs to be sharpened and a steel brace welded onto the frame which broke at the end of last season. Leaking hydraulic hoses need replacing. New clutch plates in the tractor PTO. Batteries charged from winter storage. Check and top off the fluids and fuel. Airing up tires that have been sitting all winter. Eating plenty of high protein meat and getting a good night sleep the night before. We often wait to the laaaaassssttt minute to do this step. We’re not very good boy scouts.
Step 2 - Waiting for the Perfect Conditions
We want the grass to be mature but not yet gone to seed and stalky. We want the grass to be moist and alive yet the weather to be dry and sunny on cutting day so the baler will operate smoothly. We want the ground to be hard enough so the equipment doesn’t compact the soil and kill the grass. We are checking the almanac and weather reports non-stop to predict the perfect window to launch.
Step 3 - Grass Cutting
We use the horse team which can easily pull the cutter, uses the least fossil fuels, and compacts the soil the least. Our horses also don’t mash the grass down like tractor tires, which would make it difficult to cut. And, the horses are anxious to work after a long stationery winter.
Step 4 - Teddering
The grass is spread out to allow it to dry just a little bit and de-clumps it for easy raking and baling.
Step 5 - Raking
Our horse team helps rake the grass into windrows for the baler to scoop up easily.
Step 6 - Baling
The baler is a heavy piece of equipment that requires heavy horse power. We have done this by horse in the past and it is very strenuous on the team. This year, we used a tractor to pull the baler which rolls the hay into large round bales and wraps them in nylon netting.
Step 7 - Loading & Hauling
We pick up and load the bales on our wagon with a skid steer and haul them to the wrapper and final storage location at the edge of the field.
Step 8 - Wrapping
The round bales are wrapped in plastic, completely sealing in the moisture and nutrients. In the old days, the grass would be loaded into a silo that compacts and seals the haylage for the winter.
Step 9 - Manure Spreading
We add chicken manure to the pasture now before the new growth spouts and while the soil is dry.
Step 10 - Praying for Rain the Next Day
Yes, I’m sure God gets confused when we first pray for lots of steady rain, then pray for no rain for a few days, and then pray for lots of steady rain again. I would be like, “Make up your mind, John!”
We’ll do this all over again in three weeks
We have a 33-acre field we hope to take four cuttings. Two 25-acre fields that we hope to take three cuttings. We also have one 25-acre field that we just seeded with alfalfa, oats, and clover this Spring. We hope to take one cutting from it and let the cows graze on it this winter. We’ll feed haylage from December through April in addition to grazing on pasture. Our animals live outdoors and get sun, water, and exercise year-round.
...and hopefully again in three more weeks
This winter was exceptionally warm and high in rainfall, which means we will have an abundance of nutritious food for the livestock all year long. Last year, we went through about 750 bales of haylage. This year we hope to capture 1000 bales this Spring and Summer.
Question: What is key to the most nutritious haylage?
Well, I didn’t write this last winter, and today is the deadline for this months farm news, so I’m wrapping this up at Midnight and will be ready to roll at daybreak.