At first I wasn’t sure that we’d made the right choice when I saw our neighbours had cut and baled their hay meadows early in July. However we wanted to wait a little longer so that the wild flowers could properly set seed before it was cut.
There were a few occasions when I wished we’d cut earlier and I’m still not completely used to the tense times around some of the activities on a smallholding. I’m sure it’ll eventually become second nature but even now after 6 years they can be nerve-wracking times.
In the end, our neighbour came to cut our little (4 acre) meadow on Tues 23 July with the weather forecast looking vaguely suitable to my untrained eye. I don’t usually take the forecasts too seriously as it changes regularly but it’s the best indicator I’ve got for what may be coming.
Unfortunately 2 days later there were some overnight thunder showers which set everything back a bit. A real shame because it looked like the grass was drying out nicely up until that point.
Still, when that happens there isn’t much you can do other than wait for a long enough period of decent weather. So we waited…. and waited…. but after a week or so it became clear that we’d never get the grass dry enough for small square bales as we’d originally wanted.
Finally we had a couple of fairly fine, breezy days predicted and made the decision to get the whole lot baled and wrapped as big round bales. So it was that on Sat 3 August the guys with all the right equipment got to work
It was 11 days from when the grass was first cut before the crop was finally baled but very reassuring to know that it was finally protected. Since that point we’ve not even had a dry enough spell for all the bales to be moved round to their storage point though.
The bales will get moved in the end but it’s better not to be running big heavy tractors around over our water logged ground at the moment. Not that they are likely to get stuck, just that they’d leave too much mess if they tried
I know that some other smallholders didn’t manage to get hay made in time and it looks like August is due to be a bit of a washout. I’m currently predicting that this may even be the wettest August for some time.
Although it was some time ago now, I never did manage to put anything on here about the hay making this year. I won’t even both coming up with any excuses, there just aren’t enough hours in the day at the moment I guess.
Given that the weather so far this summer has been hot and dry, it’s no surprise that hay making went without a hitch in the end. The first week of July was considered to be as good as any time particularly since the dry weather would mean poorer quality hay if left for too much longer.
The field was cut on the Monday, turned a number of times over the next couple of days and then baled by the Wednesday evening. Our neighbour has the right equipment so we’re happy to pay him for the work and all this happened while I was away for business.
Once I returned though, there was no avoiding the fact that the hay bales needed to be brought into the barn. Luckily the lack of rain this year meant that I could take a couple of days over the task without any risk to the hay while it sat in the field.
This year we got around 150 bales in total which is considerably down on the yield from the same field last year. This is taken from a roughly 4 acre field but only 3 acres of it was considered good enough to cut due to rushes and nettles around the edges.
As a result we’ll need to buy in extra feed for the cattle over this coming winter but that’s quite a common situation for many people this year. Hopefully we can get our winter feed sorted out before any mad rush pushes the prices up too far though.
The field is slowly starting to recover now and, if I’m honest, we could do with some rain soon but I know you have to be careful what you wish for sometimes!
By the end of April our small herd of Dexter cattle had managed to eat all the hay that we made late last summer. Over the last couple of weeks there has been some carefully planned movements between their winter fields because we had a family wedding lined up for the main meadows.
While they may have made an interesting addition to the wedding party, they don’t mix well with wedding guests so they were kept well away until after the event. Luckily we had some wooded areas with good grazing which they could move into temporarily.
We had originally stored around 380 small square bales of hay and at the time I was sure that it would last all the way through winter. However the tough snowy period through March meant that we got through our supply more quickly than expected.
In the end, we asked a neighbour to bring us just one large round bale of silage with his tractor so we could feed them through the last week or two and that did the job nicely. Yet another example where friends and neighbours can make all the difference so we’re always very appreciative of the help.
Based on notes I made when the bull was here last summer, I believe that Daisy will be the first to calve, perhaps even later this week. After that I’m hoping that Nellie will calve about 2-3 weeks later but this is all very approximate.
We’ll just have to let nature take its course and wait until they’re ready to produce. It’s times like this when we appreciate the fact that Dexters are an easy calving breed and they can be left to sort themselves out. We shouldn’t need to interfere but we’ll be watching closely just in case.
Once the wedding party clean-up had been completed last weekend, it was a simple matter of walking the cattle down to their new home. As usual they were more than happy to follow a bucket and since it was a hot day they weren’t in the mood for any rushing about.
It seems a long time ago now but it was only just over a week ago (Sunday 27 August) when our hay field was cut. A little late in the year compared to others perhaps but we got lucky with a spell of good weather and in the end the timing suited us perfectly.
In past years this field has been made into large round bales which were then taken away because we can’t use them without the heavy machinery to handle them. This year we asked a neighbour to cut and bale the field into small bales for us so that we can feed the Dexters on our own hay this winter.
We have been managing winter feeding for the cows by getting large bales one at a time from a neighbour and storing them in the barn. We could take out as much as the cows needed each day and they worked their way through each large bale over the course of 10-12 days.
This particular field had been deliberately left empty since early June and had grown well over the past few months. We watched the proceedings with much more interest this year because the results really mattered this time around.
After a week of watching the cut grass dry out and keeping a wary eye on the ever-changing weather forecast, it was quite a sight when the baler arrived last Saturday (2 Sept). Once the small baler got going the bales just kept on appearing and with our limited equipment it wasn’t possible to keep up.
Luckily the weather was excellent so it was just a question of getting the job done no matter how long it took. In the end this was quite some time and it was lucky that the moon was bright that weekend because bales were still being shifted after 9pm on the Saturday night!
By the following afternoon – and with the life saving help of some neighbours and his tractor – the last bales were safely stored. In fact just about every outbuilding now has some hay in it which smells wonderful but limits the options if we need to store anything else!
They might be called small bales but that’s just a relative term. After a weekend of shifting nearly 400 bales I was quite glad to get back to work at the day job for a rest!
After all the work it’s a strange sight now but I know that in no time at all the grass will be growing again and it will be back to a normal green field
It’s that time of year again when the friendly neighbouring farmer comes along to cut the hay meadows. Unlike last year when everything happened while I was out for the day, this year he arrived while I was pottering around the place so I was able to take some pictures.
In our area it seems that hay making has been going on for some time so I had thought ours would be some of the last to get cut. This is not a bad thing with these wildflower hay meadows as it’s good to let the plants set seed before cutting.
I have also noticed that there are still a number of fields dotted around locally which have not been cut yet so we can hold our heads up high. It may not be a competition but there is a part of me that’s glad we’re not the last to get cut!
Now would seem a good time for me to make some plans for the future maintenance or even improvements to these fields. In the future we may need to consider taking on this work ourselves so it would be very helpful to know a little more on the subject.