Monday, April 20, 2020

Making Hay

Friday and Saturday we put up the first hay crop of the year, and boy was it a good one. Last fall we seeded a few pastures and hay-fields in a mixture of rye, rye-grass, and clover. We've been grazing the pasture crop, and have just started harvesting the hay portion. This crop is really high quality and will be reserved for the cattle with the highest nutritional requirements (dairy cows, and finishing beef steers). For this particular crop we baled the hay with a significant amount of moisture still in the plant. It's a process called baleage. After the hay is baled at about 50% moisture, we then wrap the hay within a airtight plastic film. This film keeps out the oxygen. Without oxygen the sugars in the grass are consumed by anaerobic bacteria. These anaerobic bacteria create lactic acid which preserves the grass. It's a process many of you are familiar with... fermenting. Just like you would make kraut, we prepare this hay to have the most available nutrients for our cattle. Not only is this a process that preserves high quality hay, it also allows us to harvest cool season grass in the spring. In the south making dry hay this time of year is nearly impossible due to the frequent rains. By not having to wait for dry weather, we can make baleage in between rainstorms with some of the best quality grass we can grow consistently in the south.