Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"78 minutes of summer" - Problems with hay

While the rest of the country has been baking, Washington state has been cold and wet.  So cold, and so wet, in fact, that a local weatherman calculated we've had exactly 78 minutes  of summer

Normally cold and wet isn't a problem, but I have a big problem.  We have not put away any hay for the year.  Normally we'd have a first cut in the barn by the first week of june,  and we'd be all done with haying by the middle of june,  but this year we haven't had enough sun to to dry the grass to bale it. 

background:  To make good hay it's first cut in the field, and dried.  Then raked and fluffed, and dried some more.  After it's reached the right moisture content, it's baled, and the bales are then kept dry.  Properly dried and stored hay will keep for years.  Wet hay can burn your barn down, or the mold that forms can make your animals sick.  So we want it dry and well cared for. 

I've been waiting and waiting for the weather to break, so that I can get the haying out of the way, but so far we have not seen 3 sunny days in a row, and the overall temperatures have been too low. 

This is getting to be a problem.  I need between 20 and 30 tons of hay for my ruminants (cow, sheep, goats) and for bedding for my pigs.  Having a few bales of hay (or a few hundred) is pretty handy when you need to keep animals warm and dry. 

I can buy hay from other areas of the country, but my strong preference is to use local whenever i possibly can, and my favorite source is only a mile or two down the road, and the price and transport cost is right.  But this year I'm a little worried.  We're way late for hay, and I'm feeling the need to have some hay stacked. 

So the barn sits, all prepared, and empty.  And the grass waves in the field.  And winter is only a few months away. 


sheila said...

These are the kinds of years when farmers dump animals in the fall because hay is too expensive to buy. At this point even if the weather improves the hay quality is going to be poor. August harvested first cutting will be mostly fiber and no protein or energy. This might be the year to buy non-local trucked in hay now before the price goes even higher.

Anonymous said...

Have you looked into putting your grass into haylage? Many folks with farms like yours in south King County are using wrapped round bales. You see a lot of big white 'marshmallows' in the fields.
They seem to be able to bale earlier because the drying requirement is much reduced. They don't need to put it into a barn, but they do need to fence it in well - the cattle will knock down fences to get at the tasty stuff.