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.

14 comments:

Tom Stephenson said...

Have you ever fed crop-circles to the cattle, Weaver?

John Gray said...

coming back from the cinema last night and they were still franticaly getting the cut done,,,, this was way past 10pm

kristieinbc said...

I have just discovered your blog. It was interesting to read about the grass cutting. In some ways it is similar to how it happens here in Canada, and in other ways different.

Gerry Snape said...

It's non stop I think Pat! I love all the info!

Reader Wil said...

Farming is hard work, I believe. What's more it's nothing less than a science! I admire your work , what would the world do without farmers. I love reading your entries as always.

angryparsnip said...

I think it is interesting I really enjoy reading about the workings of the farm.
I was going to ask about silage and I must look it up to really find out what it is.
If find it interesting that it must be completely wrapped up. I would think it would get moldy. Dry or not.
wonderful post today.

cheers, parsnip

MorningAJ said...

I assume that the farmer mentioned in my post today was cutting grass. He's got big black bags all over the fields at the moment. I think he keeps sheep. Or at least lets someone graze sheep in there later in teh year.

Heather said...

Our erratic and almost unpredictable weather certainly doesn't help the farmer prioritize his work. I always enjoy reading about the why's and wherefore's of farming life.

jill said...

Tractors up and down our road going to collect the grass that has been cut working all hours.Love Jill xx

Robin Mac said...

Interesting post about silage - here in Queensland the bags are mostly a bright blue - that stands out even more! Mind you, green would not be much good for a lot of the time here either as camouflage, more of a khaki colour would be better!

Granny Sue said...

Haying time here too, Pat and the weather has been perfect for it up until the past two days. I think everyone was in the hayfields! I was glad, to be honest, that we no longer have cattle or horses and that job is not part of our lives any more, although I do love the smell and the sight of fresh-mown fields.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I haven't visited your farm lately. After reading, I'm so sorry I haven't. Hope all is well.

ArcticFox said...

there was a cow of 'uddersfield,
who said that her milk would not yield,
unless she had her udders feeled!

H said...

My uncle always made hay. He retired just before my eldest was born in '92. As a child, I loved being part of the process, but I suspect that's because I was always given the light jobs to do. For the adults, it was backbreaking, dusty and very hot work!