Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hey, er, I mean Hay!

One thing that grows really well on our farm is grass. We have lots of it. Tons of it actually. Every year since we built our house, we've harvested the hay on about 8 acres. Well, actually we've brought people in to harvest it since we don't have the equipment necessary to do it ourselves. In the last several years, we've had the same guy cut it, rake it, and bale it. It's fascinating to watch these huge (big boy) tractors and implements convert what is essentially dead grass into these huge, perfect, round bales of hay. The smell alone is incredible (unless you have hay fever allergies). We have a mixture of various pasture grasses including orchard grass, fescue, brome and several other grasses I can't identify, as well as some weeds/wildflower species mixed in.

The way it works is we have a verbal agreement with "Tim" who cuts and bales, and takes half of the bales as payment. That leaves us with the other half of the bales. Up until this year, we have had no use for hay because we have had no livestock. Tim bought our half of the bales to use for his cattle or to sell to others. Now that we have started planting vines, we've used up a good bit of our hay field so over the past two years we've gotten less and less hay. I think the first year we got 22 or 23 big round bales. Last year we were down to 19 or 20, and after planting this year's vines, we are down to 12. That's not a lot of hay.

Here's the thing... Now I have five sheep to feed through the Iowa winter. I need to plan for feeding them hay from about the first of November through the beginning of April, so I need to plan on between five and six months' worth of hay. I likely won't need that much because we usually don't get snow until later in November or early December but you never know. I've talked to Tim a bit about it and what I think I will do to make it easy is sell him my half of the round bales, which I think weigh about 600 to 700 lbs and since he has a small square baler he can sell me back enough square bales of good grass/alfalfa mix hay to get me through the winter.

I've calculated that I need a minimum of 75 square bales to cover me for six months, assuming the bales weigh around 40 lbs. I'll end up owing Tim about $150.00 when it is all said and done.

I should still come out ahead though because I rent 9 acres of pasture to my neighbor which will more than cover my cost for the additional hay.

Here's what our hay field looked like after it was cut this year.

Here's a picture of the rake, piling it up into
long rows to be picked up by the baler.

Here's what the hayfield looks like now that it is baled. You can also see the two-acre vineyard on the top of the hill to the right.

Tim will be back to move the big bales out of the field in the next several days and we are expecting a bunch of rain this week, which will green everything up again. In some years we might get a second cutting but that normally only happens when there is plentiful rain through late July so it is definitely not the norm for us.

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