“Blue skies and sweet, cool air today. That’s more like it! The forecast for the coming week is hot and sunny. Suddenly, it’s haymaking weather. Mark and I just took a spin around the farm, to see if the ground is dry enough to hold up mowers, balers, tractors. Some fields still contain standing water but the upper section of the hundred acres on Middle Road looks promising.
Note that I said hold up tractors. In the past, we’ve done our mowing with the horses, but given what this year has dealt us so far, we can’t afford the risk that more hay will be ruined by rain. We need to make lots of hay while this sun shines. So we’ve borrowed a mower and a round baler (thank you, Heather!), which will allow us to make large bales quickly. We’re also borrowing a bale wrapper (and thank you, Tom!), which will allow us to make haylage if we need to.
Hay vs. Haylage
What is the difference between hay and haylage, you ask? Hay is grass that is preserved by drying. Haylage is grass that is preserved by fermenting. It is, essentially, pickled grass. The forage is cut and left to wilt and dry slightly, and then it is baled and wrapped in plastic. In that anaerobic cocoon, the damp grass produces lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the bale, which prevents rot. The advantage to haylege is that because it is baled at high moisture levels, you don’t need the long and totally uncontrollable window of dry weather that you need for hay. The finished product is also palatable to the animals, and has a higher protein content than dry hay. This is because it captures more of the nutritious leaf, which is fragile when it is dry, and tends to shatter and get lost.
The disadvantages to haylage are that it costs more to make, and it uses a lot of plastic. Also, the bales have to be moved with heavy equipment, and very carefully, because if the plastic wrapping gets torn, it must be patched, or the haylage will go bad. And finally, we’ve never done it ourselves before, so there is that old learning curve to climb. This farm offers plenty of curve, even ten years in. Steep, it is, but never dull…” (Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.)
- Essex Farm: Midpoint (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Summer Tour (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: If It Bleeds It Leads (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)