We have been making hay while the sun shone. Waiting for it to shine to dry out the grass which had got wet. Waiting for the weather to make up its mind if it was going to do more than drizzle and following the radar pictures as yet again a dark orange, heavy rain indicator turns into a light misting by the time it reaches us. The angst of trying to preserve grass in the English climate.
Silage is not as weather dependent as hay, only needing to wilt for 24 - 48 hours before being wrapped to exclude the air and allow anaerobic fermentation to take place. Yes, the bales are slightly alcoholic leading to happy stock ! We have a wrapper which is controlled remotely allowing one man ( OK, one good husband ) to unload the bale from the trailer onto the wrapper, push the button to set the wrapper going and while it is wrapping to remove the wrapped bale and stack it.Then press another button so the wrapper tips the bale off. Repeat until the rest of the team stop bringing bales. Probably an indication that I don't get out enough but it is quite satisfying watching the wrapper working - see what you think. The rather loud warning bleeper sounds when the wrapper starts up and also when it tips the bale off.
Watch the video by clicking here!
The photos are of the mowing and baling ( conventional small bales mainly destined to be consumed by local horses; £3 / bale ex farm ) but there are several days of turning and spreading in between, more than once on a good drying day.
Hay turner is spread position.
The mown rows are scattered so the sun can dry the whole crop but at night or when rain is forecast it is gathered into rows again to keep the moisture off as much of the grass as possible and also expose the bare ground which will then dry out quicker ready for the grass to later be scattered again.
Gleaning information from fellow contributors to an online farming forum Phil inhabits, we have been to Booker and purchased large quantities of cooking salt. This has been spread in small quantities between the layers of hay which is slightly below the desired 16 % moisture reading as apparently it will stop mold developing. The idea is sound in that it will draw moisture out of the bales - time will tell.
A row of '56 sized' squeezer loads. At the back - hay bales stacked for winter.
The conventional baler tows a sledge behind which arranges 8 bales together in a flat pattern which can be picked up by a grab on the front of the tractor. In the field 7 of these 'flat 8's' are stacked on top of each other then another implement which fits on the back of a tractor squeezes the stack of 56 bales ( 7 x 8 ) so they can be transported back to the barn. This is usually done under time pressure as a race against an impending downpour. At a more leisurely pace the stacks of 56 can then be re-stacked to the full height of the barn using the flat 8 grab. Yes, Phil spends several evenings just shifting bales around.
We have also had contractors in with a much larger baler to make large rectangular bales and round bales which require less handling when feeding to the cattle indoors during the winter months.
The multi - purpose water tank / electric fencing unit which was pictured under construction in the last newsletter has now been completed. there is a solar panel ( top left ) which hopefully will keep the battery on the fencer charged and the cattle in. It is the first time we will have had stock out of our sight as they are going on land we have rented round the reservoir - daily checking is going to be added to the routine list of tasks which manage to fill a stockman's day.
We shall have a change in our junior staff at the end of next week. Jamie has completed an apprenticeship through Otley college with us over the last 2 years and is moving on to either a tractor driving job or fencing work depending on the result of his driving test on Tuesday.
Here he is pictured
in a supervisory role with Vicky who is with us completing 10 weeks pre - college experience prior to starting at Harper Adams in September. They are attaching a water bowser before going round the hedge plants which were put in this Spring and are now suffering from the recent dry weather.
Giving the usual amount of notice ( ringing up at 9am on a Friday to say the gang will be with us at 11am the next day ) the ewes and rams have been shorn or
sheared according to your grammatical preference. The gang is organised by the same chap who does our pregnancy scanning in early Spring and this year they were from New Zealand; 3 shearers and 2 rollers. They are paid per animal so it is important to keep the pen full which they get the sheep from and the floor cleared quickly of the fleece. It is hard work on all parts of the body but particularly the back and the shearer at this end uses a sling for support.
The land we are renting near the reservoir causeway at Layer Breton had been planted with a grass mixture which has really done well. It is being left to seed so the crop thickens fit enough to be grazed. Currently it is humming with insect life with many butterflies flitting about. There is going to be a serious quantity of bales from there too as soon as there is a weather window of opportunity. Anyone care to gamble on 6 rain free days ?
The next newsletter should feature more bales but of the straw variety.