Silage, Haylage or Hay?

Our larger scale events such as weddings take place in our ‘hay’ field. Typically our hay is harvested between mid June and the end of July. This year we planned to cut it in June because we have a number of events in July but, of course, the weather has not been kind.

Hay making needs a run of several sunny days. First the grass has to be mown. Then it is turned several times until it becomes very dry. Only then can it be baled and moved into the barn in preparation to feed our horses and ponies during the winter. It also has to be stored for a few months to cure. Freshly cut hay is not easily digested.

Without a run of several sunny days to make hay my thoughts turned to making haylage. This is very similar to hay but slightly damper. It is made into large round bales and wrapped in polythene to keep out oxygen. The combination of the slightly damper material and oxygen causes the haylage to degrade and rot. Even though it is damper when baled, present conditions are too damp.

So, the answer this year is to make silage out of the grass from the area that we need for our events. Today one neighbour (Clive Quamby) mowed the area and tomorrow another neighbour (Alan Russell) is going to bale and wrap as silage. Silage is freshly cut grass that is immediately or almost immediately baled and wrapped (or stored in a large clamp). The moisture content is high and it makes a very rich feed that is ideal for cattle but no good for horses. Alan will therefore be taking this part of our crop for his cattle.

Hopefully we will be able to make some hay or haylage with the grass from the rest of the field later in the summer. How many of you wedding planners have the silage/haylage/hay question on your checklists?

Hay making in the sunshine – June 2011

 

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June Evening

A hard day’s work in meetings and at the computer has to end as the pigs are squealing for their food and the ponies need taking off the rich spring grass.

Head down I set about my tasks. Pig feed is measured out into a bucket while collected rainwater is transfered to a large black bin ready to be barrowed round to the pig’s field where I keep a large water container for topping up their water supply. The pigs are pleased to see me. I like to think that they really are pleased to see me but of course really, they are really pleased to see the food bucket.

After giving them some more bedding and checking the fencing, I bid the pigs goodnight and set off to find the horses. I pass the orchard and see that the last of the apple blossom has gone. It has been abundant this year, which hopefully means that there will be a crop that reflects this in the autumn.

At the entrance to the orchard is a gate leaning on a dry stone wall with a gate post, independently, also propped up against the wall. I bought the gate post over a year ago ready to set and attach the gate to it. Unset, the gate has to be lifted into a position to provide a barrier.

Despite calling the ponies they remain munching the rich grass that, un-moderated, will draw them to their maker. In due course they are caught and returned to sparse pasture overnight. Another of threat to their welfare, ragwort, has re-appeared in a couple of places and so I do a tour of the fields with a barrow to stop its progress.

Last task is to transplant 4 pumpkin plants to their final destinations underneath the fruit trees in front of the barn.

I started the evening stressing about jobs.