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January 14, 2014
always working for the bos

always working for the bos

Nothing causes more grief around here than getting in the hay, second to that is the feeding out of the hay.  Note scowling husband above staring at the knotters on the baler.  Poor guy, he fell for long legs and hair and had no idea what he was in for.  We used to do custom hay for others and that is one of the most thankless jobs on the planet, doing our own is bad enough.

heading for another load

heading for another load

Mostly because my husband works off farm, my daughter and I haul the bulk of the hay in.  We make a game of getting in as much as we can before he gets home.  Well, as much as you can make a game of hauling hay that is.  Hot. Sweaty. Hard. Work.  We also get to pick up the hay we want, in what order we want too without all the male pattern driving directions and arm waving.  Hay tests aren’t just for protein content, they are for marriages too.  And that is on good days, throw a few monkey wrenches in with all the hard work by way of equipment breakdowns and you got it yourself a real meltdown.

two woman hay hauling

two woman hay hauling

As for picking what bales we want, the hayerarchy goes like this:

♥  Jane gets the best hay.  This is scouted out starting now and into the growing season then you cross your fingers and hope for a good hay season.  Why Jane?  Because she works the hardest around here, supplying milk for us and her calf, butter, cheese, and extras of those dairy products for the dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, and garden.  Milk cow and horse hay go in the barn near the house.

♥  Willy the horse is next in line.  Not my choice but since he belongs to my daughter and she helps haul the hay she gets next pick.  She knows better than to get into my hay stash for a horse, and I know better than to force the issue of how much hay he eats or wastes.  He does contribute in ways that can’t be measured and in ways that can by the way of horse manure for fertilizing.  Plus he is a smart cookie and Jane kinda likes him.

♥  The beef cows  – Virginia, Lula, Sylvia, Horned, Lola, Spot, and their calves from the last two years plus Dickie get what’s left, which is the bulk of the hay.  That hay is stored in the barn with the feeding shed attached.  Either we haul it out and and feed it in the pasture or in the feeding shed.  Just depends on the weather and how much deep bedding we need to accumulate for pasture fertilization.

second in hay line

second in hay line

What we never tell the cows is that if we see a good bale in the hay barn that is suitable for Jane or Willy, we nab it and set it aside.  If they only knew Jane got rolled barley and carrots everyday I think I would have mutiny on my hands.  But what can I say?  I likes my cream and butter.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2014 12:09 pm

    Oh, I can relate! We used to make our own hay with an ancient baler…..and my husband is not particularly mechanically inclined.. so you can imagine how that went at times:( Generally he did the mowing and baling, and I did the tedding and raking. The last few years, since our hay eating livestock has been drastically reduced, we have given the haying over to our neighbour. Do I miss it….yes greatly sometimes, and then I come to my senses, and think not! Loved hearing the sound of that baler pounding away though….

  2. January 14, 2014 1:39 pm

    Love, love, LOVE your hay truck! What a great thing – choosing your hay. I don’t have that luxury, as I am bound to a neighbor’s good graces and timing. I’m lucky, though, in that he picks it up, brings it over and stacks it in my barn for me. Then I go out and restack it the right way… 🙂

  3. Bee permalink
    January 14, 2014 1:52 pm

    Yes, I know all about anal cowboy husbands who practically get out the T-Square to make sure the bales are correctly aligned in the stacking process! How many acres of hay ground vs. pasture do you have for your gang, Nita?

    • January 14, 2014 3:08 pm

      Bee, well I have to appreciate the anal retentiveness when he’s building something or fixing something, and he had to learn how to stack hay but, gosh, he sure fusses about us not picking it up in the same order it was baled. I’ve learned though if you don’t see the hay being picked up third round in and round one and two are gone when you get home, you’re none the wiser 😉 He gets his cream for his Dirty Serb at night and a cold beer or two in the fridge and I get my hay baled. He plans his work vacation time around hay so I can’t complain.

      Gee, that depends, about 1/3 hay – 2/3 pasture out of about 36 or so acres. All the hay ground gets grazed at least once too before haying which puts us in the prime hay making weather and second cut quality to boot.

      • Bee permalink
        January 14, 2014 7:07 pm

        Oh boy, you use the same strategies with your spouse that I do! I don’t have to deal with the vacation issue, but I’ve found a little bribery goes a long way. Pecan pie and divinity fudge (the two smallest call it “dinity fudge” and steal crumbs since Papa won’t give them big pieces) work well… what the heck is a Dirty Serb?

        • January 14, 2014 9:58 pm

          Bee, whatever works right? Kahlua, bourbon, and cream. Pretty good, and I’m the Dirty Mother 😉

      • January 14, 2014 7:29 pm

        I really like this. You always bring up things I’m curious about. It’s so great to have you out there in cyberspace sharing your knowledge!

        Regarding grazing in your hay pastures, do you ever have issues doing that? Last year the farmers around me told me to keep our cows out of our hay fields because if there was any manure in there when we went to cut hay, they would reject it. I never heard that before. I wanted to just graze them and then cut later to get some of those better quality forages in there.

        Also, do you always do squares? What is your set up for feeding the beef animals (you mentioned shed, but feeders etc.)? We had large round bales cut because that’s what the farmer cutting our hay preferred. We have squares for our milking cows and much prefer them. Not liking the rounds at all! So much wastage!

        • January 15, 2014 9:55 am

          COF, I need to really do a blog post about that – our winter feeding etc., thanks for the idea. In short any manure left would not be picked up by the hay equipment, and if there is any it just shows the the nutrients aren’t being cycled, which is very common in fields just used for hay. Ask me how I know 😦

          Yes, we are stuck in the older technology by choice. The big stuff is so capital intensive and we all know what marketing does for folks, you HAVE to keep up with the Joneses and have bigger and bigger equipment. Our 40 horse International that my brother bought brand new in 1971 shows that we are not the best customer for hay equipment. Plus the biggest factor for me, is that handling small squares is something that a child can do, or a woman, or and old person. Of course the hay guys like it, NEVER TOUCH A BALE is the mantra with our friends that do hay. Our straw bales are small squares too, and the farmer that raises that does small squares for his hay business as well. he uses a bale wagon to bring them in so it can work and still not have to have too much handling. Around here round bales aren’t all that common due to the hobby horse industry being the bulk of the hay customers.

          I’ll do a post about winter feeding – I promise :p

  4. January 14, 2014 2:25 pm

    “Male pattern driving directions and arm waving.” This made me laugh very hard. We don’t do hay … but I know exactly what you mean.

  5. January 14, 2014 3:19 pm

    That sounds suspiciously like the way my husband deals with the firewood – if I split and stack – I make sure he’s not home. There is nothing like being told you’re not stacking it right. This is how women came to invent the ‘evil eye’.

    • January 14, 2014 3:28 pm

      Yeah , and that’s how I tend to be too busy sometimes when stuff needs doing. He gets the wood to the woodshed and it has to be just so. I take it out, fill the basement as needed and handle the fire duties. It works best sometimes if we stay out of each others way. Not kumbayah-like at all, but a good deal for both.

  6. January 14, 2014 4:04 pm

    Love Jane. I like to stack my own hay too, then when i am up the top in the dark i know what i am looking for.. c

  7. Karen permalink
    January 14, 2014 5:01 pm

    Matron, It sounded like you also use hay in addition to straw for your bedding. Is it the same bedding you also use on your veg garden? I can’t get straw in my part of the world and worry the hay I use for my chicken bedding will sprout it’s own pasture.

    • January 14, 2014 5:53 pm

      I use straw that we purchase. The hayey mess gets put out on the pasture…but some of the seeds do make it through the cow obviously. I keep the area between my rows weeded/cultivated anyway for a dust mulch, so it’s not a problem for me, and since my garden was permanent pasture anyway before it was a garden I doubt I have made much of a dent in the heritage pasture seed bank.

      So for the most part the hay stays in the feeders and separate from the bedding. If there is some wasted hay mixed in, I put that on the pasture compost pile or in the orchard. Some days that means two loads of poop to haul from Jane’s night in the barn.
      It’s been my experience that establishing a good pasture of grasses and forbs is harder than it looks and takes several seasons of babying, meaning that a few months of grass seeds sprouting with cultivation disturbance is not the path to establishing grass.

  8. January 14, 2014 5:55 pm

    I’ve been reading for sometime, but have a couple of questions because I’m in Central Asia working fodder beets for milk cows and very small scale backyard egg production. If grass hay and fodder beets are all one has, what would be the ration for a 5 liter/day milk cow (production is so low because of very poor genetics, as well as feed) How much fodder beet/liter/100kg live weight . . . if that is a proper question.
    also, how do you feed milk to poultry? Do they drink it or do you mix it somehow into a porridge? At very low levels of milk production (where they consume most at home) it would probably make more sense to convert the milk into eggs or something that is slightly easier to aggregate around the village and send to town to sell.

    • January 16, 2014 10:25 am

      I hate to say “it depends” but it’s true there are so many factors to take into consideration. I have seen numbers quoted that say as high as 20kg per day for dairy cows. This site echoes that as well and provides more fodder for thought:
      Usually just for ease of handling I make acid cheese which just requires heating and adding acid of some sort, vinegar, citrus, citric acid are the most common and available in the home kitchen. This method leaves a lot of whey which I then put on my fruit trees, garden, grass etc. The chickens readily consume the cheese, whereas if I clabbered the milk, it took quite awhile for them to clean it up, which can get messy after a few days.

      Eggs aren’t as perishable and much easier to transport and store without spoilage, thus making them an easier sell than the milk. I think you’re spot on.

      • January 17, 2014 2:01 am

        Thanks for responding. Good to now about the acid cheese. That is definitely an idea.
        I had a lovely day today of household garden and farm visits. The women have such a lovely spirit here!

  9. January 15, 2014 9:15 am

    I hear that. Once you’ve tasted fresh milk and really good butter, there’s no going back.

  10. mom24boys permalink
    January 15, 2014 4:26 pm

    I’m not living on a farm, but I work on one as a care-giver to the “matron” there. I look at their fields and want to give advise that I have gleaned here. I have personally raised cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens but now am restricted to vicarious farming (except for chickens – who can live without their own egg laying girls?!).

    In talking to the son (with a town job) who operates the place, he is just trying to keep the place paying for itself so they have the learning experiences to impose, oops – I mean, GIVE to the next generations. Every year all the grand-kids, nieces and nephews work the haying season. They sell enough hay to pay the property taxes and store enough for their winter use. The kids learn about hard work, how to drive, what the land means and so much more. Grandma/aunt Terra feeds them unbelievably good food in massive quantities and everyone swims the dirt off in the Coastal Fork during the lunch break. Building memories!

    I am sure they will count these days as priceless.

  11. January 16, 2014 8:33 am

    If there is a more stressful time of year than hay time I don’t know what it is. Check the forecast. Check the hay field. Check the forecast again. Double-check the forecast. Hook up the mower-conditioner with your fingers crossed (hold together, baby!). Watch for rain…knowing the weatherman carries no liability for a bad forecast. Watch the dew dry off of the hay each morning and check the stems to see if it’s time to rake. Check the weather forecast. Rake the field. Check the weather forecast. Make sure the tires are up on all hay wagons. Make sure enough help is going to show up. Wait until it is well above 95 degrees and hook up that baler (hold together, baby!). Drink 3 or 4 gallons of water while stacking bales right off of the baler…always watching the sky. Have to get those bales off the ground before dark or dew will settle on the bales. How did we do? Any wet bales? Any chance of moldy hay that will cause a cow to slip a calf? A few strings always break when we load bales onto the hay elevator. Did we miss any wet bales that will cause the barn to burn down? It’s 110 degrees in the barn. I’m not going up there to stack the hay. Let’s wait till morning. Can we wait till morning? Better check the forecast.

    Life would be so much easier with a round baler.

    • January 16, 2014 10:14 am

      You make it sound so simple 😉 It’s funny the differences in equipment – don’t know why there are no bale throwers around this area. But wait a minute if you are using a bale thrower why would you worry about the bale hitting the ground…I never worry about the dew BTW I worry about baling green hay. Might be the difference in our humidity though.

      • January 16, 2014 10:22 am

        Yup. Humidity makes all the difference in the world. My understanding is in Colorado they bale alfalfa at night. Otherwise the dry leaves fall off. Sounds wonderful.

        No thrower. I just grab each bale as it comes off of the baler with a hay hook and pull it onto the wagon. Here’s a picture of the oldest boy trying his hand at it.

        • January 16, 2014 10:28 am

          Adding to your understanding they bale alfalfa in Eastern Oregon and Washington in the night too. High desert just miles away…hard to believe.

          Ugh – we just let it go. Hauling hay is a whole separate thing here.

      • January 16, 2014 10:23 am

        Why worry? Because we always fill all four hay wagons and have to drop a few directly on the ground. We quickly round those up with the flatbed truck and a trailer.

        • January 16, 2014 10:29 am

          The dew makes no difference here. I’m guessing you remember the part of the hay chapter in salad bar beef about round bales vs. square.

        • January 16, 2014 10:37 am

          I’ll have to look it up when I get home…unless you want to help a fella out.

          Is he still feeding square bales do you think? If he winters 900 cows that’s something like 375 square bales/day. Even if it’s just for a short period of time, that’s a lot of hay to carry each day.

        • January 16, 2014 11:02 am

          Basically he says they are junk due to the way the grass is “wrapped” around with the stem ends enclosed. I have no idea if that is true or not since I have never even been close to a round bale. Like any hay thing, it’s subjective I suppose.

          I think he puts up square bales at the farm(s) but buys in large squares or rounds and feeds them out. So maybe if you have that many cows and round bales are what’s available you use it. Salad Bar Beef was written before the cow herd grew beyond the home farm limitations. A lot may depend too on the hay contractor near the rental farms…some folks have moved up to rounds so you get what you get.

          Large square here:

          Round here:

          You also don’t house 500 cows in a feeding shed with deep bedding overwinter either, unless you have lots of extra carbon and heavy equipment. I’m not even wanting to put my miniscule herd in…

        • January 16, 2014 11:19 am

          Right on about the carbon. Our stockpile is holding out but I am concerned about mud season.I need a tractor with a loader.

          Most around here prefer round bales both for labor savings but also because they are more forgiving about moisture. That idea seems counter to Salatin’s assertion. I have peeled apart round bales and haven’t seen anything disappointing but then…I’m not eating that grass either. Might be interesting to square bale one windrow and round bale the next then feed the hay side by side to see if there is any preference.

        • January 16, 2014 11:40 am

          Yes, and a bale spear, and a round baler too…I’m sticking with our system. It works and it’s paid for. Just add gas and twine. Do you know the best way to get the hay out of your operation? Get rid of your cows 😉

        • January 16, 2014 12:15 pm


          Then I would have to find a new expensive, time-consuming hobby.

  12. Fiona permalink
    January 16, 2014 11:36 am

    My husband and I are in the Process of selling one property to buy a better one more suited to our plans. We are planning on getting a walk behind tractor, they make the most awesome “Round” baler for it. Not cheap but we have done the math and the investment is worth it. [Baler Link]

    The smaller walk behind equiptment will suit our new operation, we plan on small livestock and lots of garden space.

    This is an option and here is a link to a very good site.

  13. January 16, 2014 11:51 am

    We have a small round baler that goes on our tractor, it was cheaper than the one for the two wheel tractor. The only thing to remember though is that although round bales stand water better than the square bales, small round bales won’t stand out in the winter like the large tight packed round bales. That is our experience anyway and we live in a fairly humid environment in the autumn times here in Latvia

    • Fiona permalink
      January 27, 2014 5:55 am

      Joanna, I used to ranch in Western Canada and the Big Round Bales [1100 to 1400 pounds] were left out all winter without problems. With the 50 pound rounds from the Caeb baler we will store them as soon as they are baled.

      • January 29, 2014 7:43 am

        Yes they do that here in Latvia too, but they are so difficult to move they are just not practical for us. Small is beautiful 🙂

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