Nov. 14, 2016

Make Hay While The Sun Shines!


“Make hay while the sun shines”.  Nothing could be more true!  Who could guess, though, that it is a process that involves cooperation from the weather, intuition and skill, a bit of magic and don’t forget ... luck! Here on our farm in Southeastern Ontario harvesting hay begins in mid-June when the grass is not quite mature and believe it or not it also has a lower fibre content and higher protein than when it is older.

How do we make “good” hay?

First of all we need 3 to 4 sunny days in a row.  These are the ‘cooperation from the weather’ and the ‘luck’ ingredients.  If the farmer feels comfortable with the upcoming weather he or she will pull out their disc bine to cut and spread the hay on the ground to begin the drying phase.  The sun will effectively dry the hay in a few days after which it is flipped over and fluffed up with a rake.  The last bit of drying can take less than a day with the right kind of weather including low humidity.

Baling Hay

When the hay is dry enough, there are at least 3 choices for baling:    the first is small square bales which are actually rectangular.  These are harvested from the baler to a wagon either by a mechanical bale thrower or an actual person who collects the bales and stacks them on a wagon;  round bales which are 20 times bigger than a square bale can be made and left in the field to be picked up by a tractor with a fork on the front.  The third type of bale is a large square bale which is too heavy to lift and must be collected by a tractor.  From this point on, grass magically turns into a dried forage crop that can be stored for winter feeding.

Storing Hay for Winter

Storage of hay is traditionally in a hay mow.  Small square bales are carried up into the mow on a special elevator and stacked in the barn.  Round bales can be wrapped in plastic or tied with baler twine and stored inside or out.  Large square bales are usually stored inside or out where they can be moved by a tractor.

Who eats hay?

Clean, dry, sweet smelling hay is so good for horses, cows and sheep.  It must be free from mold, dust and dampness.  If it gets damp, it has the potential to spontaneously combust within days of being stored in the hay mow.

Cows, horses and sheep enjoy our hay!

Hay is an excellent feed for livestock to eat during the cold winter months when the grass is not available.  It can be very nutritious with cooperation from the weather, a bit of magic and luck and of course good farming skills!