Friday, 4 September 2015

Silaging.

First of the second crop silage is being led in as I write this.   We sell all of our first crop to the farmer and friend opposite.   Second crop we keep for ourselves but always do it in two halves as it is a lot of grass to have down in case the weather turns bad.

It has more or less stayed dry since the grass was cut - yesterday it rained all day but only slightly, never enough to wet the footpaths and road, and with the breeze it dried as fast as it fell.  Today it has been a blue sky day with a stiff breeze and very cold - only 11 degrees.

By this morning the farmer decided the grass was ready.   He no longer does it himself after cutting.   He gets in sub-contractors and they came at lunchtime.   During the afternoon they have completely transformed the grass lying in the fields - they have rowed it, baled it and wrapped it and now the farmer is leading it into the silage clamp and when that is full the rest will go into the back of the shed, leaving room for straw in front.   Before he put the silage into the clamp area he put rat poison down.   At present the rat population is out in the fields enjoying the leavings from the wheat and barley fields, but once it turns colder they will come on to the farms and make their way to the back of silage heaps and nibble away at the plastic covering.   So the farmer (and all the other farmers round here) get in first.  We can't allow the rat population to get a foothold.

Sometimes, when I write about silage some of my American readers are puzzled about what it is exactly.   The farmer says the best way to think of it is as pickled grass.   In the old days, when my father in law began farming getting on for ninety years ago, silage was far in the future.   The only grass crop was hay and that was usually one crop a year up here in the Dales.   It had to be an exceptional year for the farmers to get two crops of hay.   This feed had to be eked out with chopped root crops and cattle cake, which they bought in slabs. And all the cutting and chopping was done by hand.

Of course in those days the Dales farms were relatively small and milking herds consisted of maybe twenty or thirty cows.   Farm incomes had to be filled out with keeping poultry and selling the eggs, keeping turkeys and geese for the Christmas table, and keeping a pig which would at the very least keep the family in meat for a large part of the winter.

Now, with much bigger farms, many more cattle, and the need for more  feed, the invention of silage has really been a godsend.  What our forefathers would think to the ease of farming these days I can't imagine.

So here are the photographs I took today (with varying degrees of success) - mainly for the benefit of American readers as I am sure every Brit has seen silaging many times over the years.





18 comments:

angryparsnip said...

Wonderful Photos today.
Thank you.

cheers, parsnip

Joanne Noragon said...

Yes, good photos to show the process. I live in the midwest, with much farming done, and I pass fields of rolled sileage frequently.

Dawn McHugh said...

I am looking forward to taking our own hay perhaps next year, the alpacas wont eat silage so it has to be hay, I may try them again, we hope to get our hay delivered in the next week or so, I am having small bales there easier for me to manage but the downsize is we have to keep them under cover, I have just been reading a book Place of Stones eary 50's they started introducing silage to there farm and it was kept in a Silo :-)

Gwil W said...

Over they years I've noticed the farmer has a way with words; short and to the point. 'Pickled grass' is a real gherkin!

Midmarsh John said...

Always interesting to see the variety of specialist machinery used in farming these days.

lil red hen said...

I live in the U.S. and we silage our first cutting of hay in the spring most years. This year the fields were flooded, leaving dirt and debris on the grass which made it undesirable for silage, but baled it dry later. I certainly enjoy reading about your farm life and comparing it with out own.

Rosie said...

Super photos it all sounds exhausting to a townie!

Penny said...

Really interesting, here it is only just spring and I saw the first silage baled in paddocks yesterday. No second crop for us and we had a very dry winter which doesn't auger well for farmers in some areas.

Frances said...

How very kind you and the Farmer are to share this information with folks like me who otherwise would be very unlikely to even have seen or heard the word sileage.

The photographs are very good and go well with your explanations.

Many thanks! xo

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

We have that kind of silage here in the U.S. too - the plastic is white - and they look like big marshmallows in the fields. This year I've seen some very pale green plastic.

Hildred said...

Silage here is sometimes (but not always) a last resort if the hay gets rained on before it can be baled. I have seen it packed under one very large and long plastic bag, but usually those big white marshmellows!

Cro Magnon said...

Ours tend to be wrapped in white plastic, and left out in the fields (not a very pretty sight). I love the smell of it; when well made it has a hint of sweet licorice about it.

Cro Magnon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Midlife Roadtripper said...

"Pickled Grass." I get it.

I appreciate the information you've provided. I've seen the process through the US, but the word silage is not one I was familiar with. Thinking how well it is "pickled" helps with the price. I'm thinking a day or two of rest is due for your farmer.

Glad to hear the rat population is a concern. I don't do rats.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting the different colours of wrapping - here it is usually black or pale green. Last year, when we had the Tour de Yorkshire here many farmers put out bales with large stickers on the ends saying Wensleydale Cheese. Interesring also that Cro says the bales there are left out in the fields. Here crows and rabbits descent on them immediately they are wrapped. And of course the reason for wrapping is to totally exclude the air to aid the pickling process and once crows or rabbits break through the plastic the rot sets in.

dindin said...

Down in Texas silage is put into a pit and covered with a large tarp. Not rolls, just the hay. They sometimes "blow it" into the pit and then cover it with tarp but it is not "baled" and covered. Then when our farmer need some to feed he just scoops it out of the pit with the front-end loader and takes it to the cows.

Heather said...

Modern farm machinery is so complex and very different from the machines I watched through my grandmothers hedge in my childhood! It's fascinating to observe the changes that have taken place over the years. Glad the hay/silage is safely in.

Heidi Sutton said...

When I was a kid, I helped my dad and brothers bale hay on grandpa's farm. There was a lot of lifting and toting involved, and it was hot in the summertime when we did it. I would guess that is when the nutritional values were highest. I was fascinated with your account of silage and technology in farming.

Heidi Sutton @ Ag Source Magazine