The warm and damp weather of recent weeks has enabled the grass on our farms to grow quickly, providing good nutritious food for our cattle and sheep to graze on. But, of course, in farming you have to be looking ahead and we need to plan for the feed for our animals this winter.
Broadly there are two strands to our winter feeding strategy : fields of brassicas – kale and rape – which have to be sown in the summer so that they are fully grown by the time winter comes; and hay or haylage, effectively preserved grass, which the cattle can feed on in the cold winter months when the grass is growing slowly or not growing at all, and, in any case, the fields are too wet for the herd to go out on them without causing damage.
In order to make top quality hay, you need to have four or five days of dry, sunny weather to enable the grass to be dried, baled and carried safely into a weather-proof shed for storage. That is why, with high pressure over the United Kingdom and temperatures soaring, Rob has cut the grass on five of our fields for hay. After cutting with a tractor-mounted mower, the grass shear is turned regularly so that it is dried out evenly and well before being baled into large round bales for easy carrying, storage and, eventually, feeding next winter.
And what happens if we have rain showers in the middle of hay-making or, even, a thunderstorm? Well, at best, the feed quality of the hay is compromised and at worst the whole crop can be spoiled. And sometimes the farmer fails to make the right call, and wet hay in the barn can over-heat and even catch fire! That is why you sometimes hear of barn fires on farms in summer…
But, while the sun is shining, Rob is working hard to make the top quality hay that our cattle will enjoy next winter. Let us hope that the weather does not change too soon before it is all safely in the shed!