Thursday, 31 May 2012
Safely gathered in - just.
On Sunday the long range forecast told us it was going to be mainly fine all week with just a risk of an odd shower here and there.
At this time of the year farmers all have to come to a decision. To cut the grass, or not to cut the grass. There are so many factors involved. The grass has to be long enough to make the first cut viable but this has to be balanced against the fact that the first grass of the year is the most nutritious. In addition there has to be a forecast of several days of dry weather so that before it is gathered up and baled it can dry. This means it wants really dry weather - not necessarily sun but certainly not what we call around here 'muggy' weather.
Some of our neighbours decided that this was not the week to cut - as did the farmer. But one neighbour took the plunge and cut all his grass down. Then, the day before yesterday, the forecast changed - today was going to be a wet day (and it is). All the grass was laid in his fields, drying nicely. Suddenly, around six o'clock last night the gathering, baling and wrapping team arrived (this is mostly done subcontract around here as the farms are not large enough to merit buying such expensive equipment).
When we went to bed at 10.30 - we can see the fields from our West-facing windows - the fields were full of bright lights and after midnight the farmer heard the equipment go past. They had finished. This morning S must be heaving a sigh of relief - all is indeed safely gathered in. Just.
Now, if the weather holds over the summer and he is lucky, he might get two more cuts in before the dairy cows come in for winter. This will mean plenty of food in store and less food to buy.
Over breakfast this morning I talked to the farmer about silage. He remembers well when it first became fashionable to silage instead of haymake. At first he and his father continued just haymaking (farmers, in fact countrymen in general, are slow to accept change). Then one year they ran out of hay and had to buy silage in for feed at the end of Winter. The milk yield shot up. After that they made silage.
At first it was put into clamps, covered in plastic sheeting and weighted down (often with old tyres). Some farms still do this with some of their silage so that they can have 'at face' feeding once the dairy cows are in - in other words they can help themselves whenever they wish. If this happens then cattle cake and additives are fed in the trough. Our farmer neighbour has a mixer and he mixes silage from his clamp with minerals, molasses and cattle cake and feeds this to his cows every morning.
We have our silage in black plastic bags. Some farms have pale green plastic bags. I do wonder why the bags can't be grass green and thus less obtrusive. One thing is for sure - they need gathering in quickly once the grass has been bagged up - rooks and crows can't resist pecking holes in the bags and that lets the air in which is no good at all. This is the reason why you often see silage bags covered in sticky tape.
But when all is said and done (and I have gone on a bit this morning) it is all about milk yield.