- September 17, 2015 at 3:15 pm #86135
I thought I already posted this, but I don’t see it…
I have 15 acres of hayfield that’s too wet for my hay contractor to get into when the hay is at it’s prime. My first cutting is always later than I’d like (July-August) so there’s hardly any regrowth for second cutting. Third cutting is unimaginable…
If I get in there with horses or oxen, and cut high, can I get in their earlier?October 7, 2015 at 8:47 pm #86230
Wet ground can mean different things! If it is raining and the ground is wet no machine or animal should be there. If it stops raining and the ground stays wet, you need to judge when hoofs are pugging, or tires are leaving ruts or marks. I have lots of wet areas on our farm. It is all pourly drained soil. I have been experimenting with grazing (sheep are much lighter than horses or cattle) and then making good hay later in the summer. It is also true that draft animals and their equipment can make hay with a little less impact that tractors. It is only slightly less if you still plan to pull a baler and wagon with bales. Loose hay equipment is lighter. One more thing to remember is all hay equipment pulls harder (for the horses) when pulling across soft ground. In the case of wagons, and such; this can be significant.October 7, 2015 at 9:44 pm #86231
This is a poor drainage issue, not a recent rainfall issue. It looks pretty dry, and you might not notice it’s wet walking across, but you run something heavy over it and it sinks in a few inches. Spin the wheels down in that hole and you can dig yourself in good. Lost a truck down there for a few weeks until I could find someone with heavy equipment to haul it out. “I’ll come back with my biggest tractor”
I’ve been considering doing loose hay. If I do only an acre or two at a time, I think I can manage all the forking. How much would it really matter if we leave hoof prints behind? Good point though about the wagon getting too hard to pull if it’s sinking in.October 7, 2015 at 9:49 pm #86232
What kind of fencing do you use for temporary grazing of a hay field with sheep? Letting my sheep do first cutting would definitely help with the issue, but I don’t trust sheep behind any easily movable electronet or electric wire fence.October 8, 2015 at 6:04 am #86233Rick AlgerParticipant
I have heard old-timers talk of mowing beaver meadows by hand, stacking the hay on cribbing and sledding it out after freeze-up.October 8, 2015 at 6:51 am #86234
If the weather was good, you could make some awesome hay by hand in a wet meadow; I just wouldn’t want to make to much of it! If you move it from the most wet spots, you could even haul it out with a wagon or stone boat.
We use electra net (from Premier) very successfully with sheep. The secret is to have the biggest and best solar charger you can as nets ground out much more than other fences. Some folks don’t like nets as hard to work with and set up well, and keep animals in. A lot of that is technique, knowing how to stretch them out in straight lines and give slight tug so they are a little tight helps keep animals out of them. Picking them up is just learning to pull all the posts with points away, and rolling them up and tieing them. Their are of course easier to use with a good perimeter fence, but we graze 20 acres every year acroos the street with no perimeter fence and no problems.
Of course one key to grazing anything is being sure to give it a reason to stay in! Our dairy sheep are moved twice a day, and our lambs get a new “break”, or fresh pasture, every day.
Leaving hoof prints in hay making is definitely getting into the judgment area. I certainly left hoof prints (2 – 3″ deep is more than a print) in a few areas this year. I start questioning myself and looking for ways around as soon as I do. Tire ruts are worse and should definitely be an indicator to go around.October 8, 2015 at 7:35 am #86235Crabapple FarmParticipant
Our sheep are in electro-net (from premier) from May through November. I try to get them off pasture into a “real fence” before ice and snow starts falling, because the net really doesn’t like ice build up, and gets hard to move when the ground freezes.
Our net has killed more sheep over the years than our coyotes, due to entanglement. Almost always our fault – not tight enough, not hot enough, didn’t move them when we should have. We typically move every three days or so, and the “or so” part can be a problem. After twelve years, I’m starting to put up some woven wire around the perimeter, but the electric net is still going to be the main fence for the sheep. Mainly because we hay almost all the land that we graze, and I don’t want any permanent fences running through the fields.
We have poor drainage in a lot of our fields – often we have to rake hay out of the wet spots until it is on ground firm enough to run over with baler and wagon. The larger patches get grazed early.
-TevisOctober 8, 2015 at 10:03 am #86236
If you do it all by hand, almost any land is hayable. Saw a video where a group re-enacts an old tradition of haying a marsh near them. They cut with scythes, cut it high, dry the grasses resting up on the stubble out of the wet, and have platforms built out there to stack the hay on, and haul it out after the marsh freezes in winter. I could maybe do 1-2 acres that way, but probably not the whole thing. I’d probably be better off getting a minimum wage job on someone else’s farm and buy in my hay…
If I was going to hay 1-2 acres with the scythe and hand rake, trimming my fence line and doing the steep sections that the big guys never get to seems more worthwhile.
Experiences with electronet seem to vary widely. Some people love it, others hate it. My mentor that has the same breed as I won’t use it because of entanglement issues. They’re so heavily wooled, the uncharged net would probably be just as effective… I’ve been saying I don’t want to try that until I’m home all day to keep an eye on it, but haying is also waiting until I have more time, so it could go either way.
Perimeter fence may work against me in the long run in this area, as the adjoining field may become rent-able hay land, and we’ll want to be moving hay equipment back and forth over that border.October 8, 2015 at 3:52 pm #86238mitchmaineParticipant
they used to handmow salt marshes here in coastal maine. it was probably the first open land. but the horses wore bog shoes. you only seem to find them in farm museums anymore. a 9-10 in. square of wood with a set of clamps that held them to the foot.October 8, 2015 at 8:50 pm #86239
Hi Mitch, What do you think of the idea of hay “in it’s prime”? I am sure hay at it’s best was the same 100 years ago, but I think perhaps the farmers expectation of always harvesting it that way has probably changed. Before there was reliable weather forecasting, working with draft animals you where likely to still be making first cutting long after it was mature. Adding more cuttings was also another way of industrializing the process where more would be taken from the land and more (often chemical fertilizer) would need to be put back. It seems to me that much of this push came from conventional agriculture and trying to get the most of of every piece of land and animal, but after so many years we have all sort of absorbed their lingo of how hay “should be made”. It seems to me that in making hay with horses we might want to look for more ways to make the system flexible and adaptable to the available weather, fertility, our time and our horses.
Some ways that I can see to do this are; raising a group of animals that survive well on the late first cutting (horses, dry cattle, sheep); and make good use of the precious second cutting that we are fortunate to get (late gestation). Adding grazing to hay lands to help manage the growth; grazing some before haying, and some after. Create a group of animals on the farm that are intended for mid summer slaughter. I am thinking about doing this with a group of over wintered lambs. They can eat first cutting hay in the winter, (using up the excess); then help control the spring flush, then off to the butcher in time to let a good crop of hay grow; that might mature just when the weather is good enough to make hay. Just brain storming, but fun stuff to think about. How did they make hay 100 years ago?October 9, 2015 at 1:07 am #86240
Seems like 100 years ago without heavy equipment and accurate forecasts there wasn’t “first cutting” and “second cutting” as uniform cuts done all at once, but rather “make hay while the sun shines” and some is cut early, some gets a bit of rain on it, some gets cut later, and you end up with a lot more variability in the hay. The commercial baler wants to do it all at once, so he’s going to wait until the whole field is ready and not start at the easiest areas and work his way around as the season goes on… It may be that my wettest areas will only get one cutting for the foreseeable future, but I could get better quality off of smaller areas that are dry earlier.October 9, 2015 at 9:39 am #86243Kevin CunninghamParticipant
Here in California I only get one cutting unless I irrigate. And by the time I can get to it is mature, dry, and browning. This is one of the reasons why I chose to raise oxen because once mature they can eat this poor forage. When I was back east I was surprised and the quality of the hay. Your first cutting looks almost dairy quality to me. It is all perspective I guess. I also get to graze all winter so that balances out.
I hope to try and make loose hay in the near future to try and improve our hay quality. I would venture to say that cutting by hand it impractical. I have scythed quite a bit and 1-2 acres by hand is a big job. I always cut some but I feed it green. Mowing is the easy part raking and stacking is where all the work is.
One of my next goals is loose hay stacking with the oxen. I was inspired at the field days and I hope to be ready by next spring.October 9, 2015 at 7:22 pm #86244
When I put up loose all done by hand, it’s about 1/4 acre in a batch.October 9, 2015 at 10:52 pm #86245mitchmaineParticipant
good points. i agree. we make new hay tools every day, and stress quality but wonder if it isn’t more about making lots of hay. if i invested enough money, i “might” be able to drop my whole farm on that one good day, and have it all under cover and made well. but that would require more money than i have to make a very small amount of cash. doesn’t make sense.
i think we all have access to the same tools at the same moment in time, but come up against our own particular problems brought on by local weather and that sort of thing.
sixty years ago, here in coastal maine, if you had the latest machinery, it would include a six foot scycle bar mower, a dump or side delivery rake and a loose hay loader or a motorized baler. no tedders at that time or crimpers. so after a day or two of laying in a swath, you raked your hay into a windrow and let the air get under it. the next day you might bale it or rake it over one more time for a little bit more making and then bale it.
100 years ago, you would still have the same tools minus the baler, and your tractor was a team of horses, and you were making your own fuel (so to speak). my grandmother would tell me about watching a dozen men scything out a field when she was small (1880’s). but that was an unusual thing to see at that time. everyone turned out to help mow everyone elses fields and you were left to pitch it into cocks for the nights and scattered out for the days to make and so on until it could be pitched on a cart and put up in the barn. coastal or saltwater farms also had the summer fogs to deal with. they would roll in off the sea and set on your hay till the fog burned off. did not help making good hay.
i remember that it was common in the 50’s for farmers to plant beets squash and turnip and store them in the barn for cows, and i remember the worst tasting molasses that came in barrels and was mixed in boiling water and poured on hay to get the cows to eat the hay.
i am surrounded with farmers cutting and wrapping spring hay, so first cut bales are really second cut, and second cut is third cutting and every crop is only a foot tall and not headed out. and as usual, i am the antique in the neighborhood. every peice of equipment i get is already outdated technology. i have done this for a long while and still struggle with making good hay. i hope this discussion opens up some good ideas about making hay.
i had a horse get out the other night and had his way around the barn for a while, and there were three or four nice bales of first cut on the barn floor and a bale of oat straw that he broke open and fed from. hardly touched the “better” hay. what do you make of that? and the deer are finally coming out into the fields and they are feeding in the bottom of the swales on grass i try a bushhog. i don’t get it
how did the dapnet fair go? best wishes, mitchOctober 10, 2015 at 1:43 pm #86248
You can have hay that is too good. The critters know if they’ve had enough protein. But if some of your hay is poor, good to have nice stuff to blend in or alternate.
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