I’m sorry for the long delay in my postings on our farm website, but we were experiencing technical difficulties in retrieving photos from our cell phone. It took us many trials and errors to convince our phone that it could do the job. None of the solutions we had learned from past problems seemed to work. Our advanced technology simply refused to cooperate until we finally stumbled upon the source of the problem. We can only hope it will choose to be more helpful in the future. I know, good luck with that!
The summer months are typically known to farmers as “haying season.” It is the time when fields of grass are processed into hay bales to feed livestock throughout the fall, winter, and spring months. I remember well the hard, determined work required during my childhood years on our dairy farm to harvest the hay crop we needed to feed our herd of 30 cows. We mowed, raked, and baled alfalfa hay at least twice (and even three times in some years) in four or five large (10-15 acre) fields on our farm. To produce high quality, dry hay bales, a farmer needs at least three to five continuous days of dry, sunny weather. That means that all the work to cut, bale, and load the hay must be done in the hot summer sun. By the time we had managed to load 100 or so bales of hay on one of our flat bed trailers, we were drowning in sweat. However, the work wasn’t done.
After the hay was loaded on the trailer, we delivered it to our barn where every bale was unloaded, placed on an electric elevator, and restacked in the loft of our barn, which was even hotter to work in than was the open field where we first loaded it. Temperatures in the enclosed hay mow could easily top 105 degrees on a hot day, and there was little or no breeze to provide any relief from the intense heat. To further compound our misery, we had to choke on the dust and chaff that filled the confined air, as we tossed the bales around the hay loft and stacked them. By the time we emerged from the barn after stacking a load of hay, our bodies and clothes were coated with golden-brown hay dust and chaff that stuck to our sweat. Our only relief came from a large pitcher of ice-cold Kool-Aid (which any of us could empty in a few big gulps) or a quick swim in our pond.
Now that we have reacquired dairy goats at our farm, we rejoined that annual, desperate pursuit of hay to feed them. The excessive rains and periodic floods that occurred throughout 2018 resulted in a poor hay crop for most local farmers, so the competition for good feed hay is very tight. We knew we’d face either high prices or a very limited supply, so we talked to as many of our farm colleagues as we could to decide where to find the supply we need.
Our farm has a 2.5-acre hayfield, which could provide adequate amount of hay for our needs, but we lack the equipment needed to harvest and bale it. Also, the grass in our field is better suited to livestock raised for meat than it is for the higher protein nutritional requirements of dairy goats. One of our neighbors has expressed an interest in harvesting the hay from our field to feed his intended market goats so it will not go to waste. We, on the other hand, have to obtain our hay from other sources.
Fortunately, one of our good friends has a small hayfield and the equipment necessary to produce small, rectangular hay bales from it. Because we don’t have the ability to move and store the big, round bales that most farmers produce, we need a supply of small, rectangular bales that we can handle by ourselves. Since our friend needed some help from us to pick up the hay he produces, we joined him on August 12 to help with the haying work. Wayne had already mowed the grass several days earlier and raked it into windrows (using a traditional, wheel-operated, side delivery rake) so that the gentle summer breeze could dry it thoroughly. He then attached his hay baler to the tractor and baled the windrows into rectangular bales, as his wife, Barb, and I followed behind with trailers to load up the bales.
By the time we finished loading the hay bales, we had a total of 34 bales on our trailer and another 40 or so on Wayne’s trailer. The bales on Wayne’s trailer were delivered to his daughter’s farm about three miles down the road and we stacked the bales on our trailer into our garage and goat barn. In total, we have now stored roughly 60 bales of hay that we hope will be adequate to feed our two small goats throughout the winter months. If not, we will need to buy more bales from another farmer or one of our local feed stores. For the time being, our goats are happy and so are we. Now that we are in September, the summer haying season is rapidly coming to a close. Our next big task will be to clean out our vegetable garden for the winter.