The heat and humidity of summer is here, signalling the start of hay season.
We finished up our first cutting this past week. Hay season is a community event around here. There are 4 families that work together to get everyone's hay done before the rain comes. Some of us need equipment and some need man power, but we all work together to make a pretty mean hay team.
Each of us has different needs for our hay supplies and different storage options. Some need square bales, some need round bales, and we need both. Some make dry hay and some make wet hay. Some store all of their hay in the barn, some store all of it outside, and we store it both in the barn and outside. It can be a complicated game getting everyone and everything where it needs to be when it needs to be there.
Add in the constant threat of pop-up thunderstorms and cranky machinery (everyone had at least one piece of equipment break down) and you have some pretty stressed out and sleep deprived people.
Between the four farms, a lot of hay was made and a lot of cows and horses will be fed this winter.
We ran out of hay this year and we are not about to let that happen again. We ended up wintering more cows than we had anticipated and by the middle of winter we were in major conservation mode. This year we are keeping at least 25 more bales than last year, just to be safe.
We only have a small portion of our barn space that is available for hay storage. With so much hay, most of it has to be stored outside.
Our solution...bales sleeves.
Grass is a funny thing.
There is either too much...
Or not enough of it.
Many cattle farmers actually consider themselves grass farmers. While we are raising cattle to either breed or butcher, we wouldn't have these cattle if we didn't have grass to feed them.
Grass farming is one of the biggest challenges we face. We have to balance having enough grass to feed our animals, but not so much that we have to mow it down with a tractor.
On top of the spring and summer grazing, we have to prepare for the winter months. Some fields have to grow in order for us to harvest hay for the non-growing season.
It is a constant juggling act.
Each year is different due to constantly changing weather conditions and different numbers of cattle. Some people are better at managing it than others.
But, for all of us, the goal is to put in the least amount of effort to gain the most amount of feed.
Summer is half way over and I can honestly say it is one of the best summers that I can remember.
I remember some distinct characteristics of my childhood summers. Hot, muggy days (with no air conditioning), popsicles, riding bikes, playing with friends, endless days with no plans...just being a kid.
I have always wanted my kids to have fond memories of summer traditions. My kids definitely have memories, but I don't know if they would describe them as laid back, lazy days of summer. They spend a lot of time on the go and working hard.
While some areas of the country are experiencing extreme drought, here in Ohio we feel like we might just need to build an ark. June brought us 20 straight days of rain and a total of 23 out of 30 days of rain for the month. We collected over 12 1/2 inches of rain just in June.
All of the rain has made hay making nearly impossible. If you were one the brave ones that didn't listen to the weathermen, you may have taken advantage of the 4 rain free days on Memorial Day weekend to cut hay. We listened to the forecast that called for rain and didn't cut. The next 3 day window without rain was July 4th weekend. We jumped...but we were only brave enough to cut the 8 acres at home.
Labor Day weekend here at the farm was the perfect mix of hard work, complete relaxation and family fun. I guess pictures will describe it best.
We spent our 4th of July weekend baling hay. The weather finally cooperated enough for us to cut the other 20 acres at Tucker Road. Well, kind of cooperated...Daniel was cutting hay in the rain. The weather report changed about 3 times an hour. We knew that we were short on time, so he cut Wednesday evening in the rain so that we would have a good full day of drying on Thursday.
We ended the weekend with 35 bales hauled home, sleeved and stacked by Sunday night. It made for a very busy weekend, but we were able to cross a huge item off of our to do list. We now have a total of 57 round bales. Only 18 round bales and 200 square bales to go.
Last weekend we completed our first round of hay. We had a few clear days and the front two acres at Tucker Rd. were prime for cutting. Daniel wanted to start with the two acres so that he could give the new equipment a good test drive without risking a large hay crop if something went awry. The haybine worked perfectly!
The 8 acres at home was not looking very good. The hay was at prime maturity but was not very high or thick. Daniel took in a soil sample to see if we could diagnose the issues. We are still waiting on the results. At the last minute he decided to go ahead a cut our field. It didn't amount to much, but it gave us the opportunity to add to the field and get an early start of the second cutting. We have spread manure on the field each spring and last years' hay crop was very acceptable. We are very puzzled about this years' growth. We are really hoping that the cold weather and a late frost are the main culprits.
Daniel raked with his new rotary rake and the jury is still out as to if it is a keeper.
We ended up with 3 days of high seventies weather and intense sun. It was perfect curing weather.
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.