Dairy Farmer's Journal: Summer work
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 17, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
After our warm, dry April, May was cool and wet. The first hay was cut on May 23 and chopping began on May 24. Most of our first cutting hay goes into the silo as haylage. We use a chopper with a hay head, which picks the hay up and runs it through cutters that chop it into fairly uniform sizes. It is blown into self-unloading wagons and then blown up into the silo. Stan and our oldest daughter’s husband did the first few days of haying wearing sweatshirts and overalls.
It stayed wet in June, though it did warm up considerably, making it hard to get the baled hay dry. It was a game of hurry up and wait: mow early, tedd out, wait, tedd out again, rake and bale as quickly as possible. By the time first cutting was over, second cutting was starting. July and August were equally wet months, making second cutting blur into third cutting. When all your feed for the winter is hay based, a year like this can be most frustrating.
The oats that Stan planted in April were quite lush with all the moisture, but the ground was too wet to chop them when the time came, so we decided to have them combined. When they were just about ready for harvesting, we had a nasty wind and rain storm that knocked a lot of the oats down and gave the weeds that had been growing up under them a highway to the sun. Ragweed and smartweed that would normally not exceed the height of the oats grew to six feet in the middle of the field. We called off the combining, not wishing to ruin the combine with the mush of the weeds. Stan finally got a chance in late in August to mow them and bale them up for straw. At that point they were so ripe that the oat seed shattered out and replanted itself, giving us another crop of green oats that were mowed in October and baled and wrapped as baleage, hay too wet to keep as dry hay that is wrapped in plastic and left to ferment into haylage.
Between haying and rain storms, Stan did some field tiling. A friend with a backhoe dug long trenches into the side hill to the east of the valley the creek runs through and Stan put snaky plastic tiles down to take the excess ground water down to the marsh where the green herons dine on frogs. Over the years, we have put miles of tiles down through all of the meadows and pastures and down the middle of the lanes. Our farm has an extreme surplus of rising springs and wet holes and the tiling program has made it possible to get on the fields a bit earlier without tearing them up.
Another job that was sandwiched in was the re-siding of most of the barn. The barn here was built in 1945 after a fire destroyed two smaller barns. It is built of hemlock in the post and beam style. Being built at the end of WW II, it was nearly impossible to get nails and the posts and beams are pegged together in the old way. Unfortunately, even hemlock falls victim to the harsh weather eventually. Stan left the boards in place and nailed up ivy green metal over them. The south end was done a couple of years ago, so this year it was the west side and the north end. The east side will wait until there is time another year.
While summer unofficially ended the first week in September, and officially the third week, summer work continued on into the end of October here. Most of September was actually the best summer weather that we had and that trend continued on well into October. The last of the hay was baled October 13, and we started bringing heifers and dry cows home from the summer pastures the next week. Summer work was done.
A short glossary:
haylage - Hay that is allowed to wilt but not dry and is then chopped and stored in a silo, pile or plastic 'ag' bag and allowed to ferment into a nutritional forage for dairy animals.
baleage - Haylage that is baled rather than chopped and then wrapped in an airtight plastic cover.
combine - A large machine that harvests grain crops by cutting the ripe grain and separating the straw and grain.
tedd - To shake hay out prior to raking so that it dries faster - sort of like the fluff cycle.
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