The fields are done, all the hay has been picked up and is now undercover in one of the three barns. Now it is time to clean the equipment before putting it away for another year.
It is a very messy business cleaning the equipment and when we are done it is impossible to tell where the dirt ends and the person begins. The fine dust clings to every square inch of the equipment and to us as we clean them.
During the cleaning process the sky kept getting darker and darker. The billowing clouds were an ominous sign that we could get a good rain.
We had to really hustle to get all the equipment cleaned and tucked back into the storage side of the barn. It seemed like once we were completed with all the pieces, the clouds began to dissipate and within a couple of hours, the sky was clear and bright again.
Now that the fields are done, a good summer rain shower would be a good thing. But for this day, the chance for moisture is gone.
It’s all hands on deck as we get down to the final hay field. This year has been a challenge with the breakdown of one tractor, a deadline to get the far field completed before the county road is used as a bypass for the highway and threatening rain every time we start baling.
We had to pick up bales as quickly as they were being punched out of the baler and since the tractor was already being used for the baling it could not be used on the stacker. The Big Red Beast was used quite a bit this year which meant that hand stacking in the barn kept us all busy for many hours through the season.
The crop this year is only about half of the volume we baled last year. This is not a complaint, last year was a stellar year and we could not hope to come close to having that level of production each year.
Our elder tractor, the one that we have used a lot over the last 30 plus years is going strong. This rig is doing many tasks this hay season.
We switch from mower, to fluffer, to rake, to baler sometimes several times throughout the day.
After this hay season is over, Old Reliable is going to get a spa day. A complete cleaning, lube and a check of all belts and fluids is on tap, this hard working rig will be in need of a little TLC for all the extra work.
Jackson the farm dog loves to ride the bales. When the Gator is loaded with five bales, he likes to fit into the niche of the two on the second layer.
It is a good vantage point as he scours the landscape for squirrels, chipmunks, birds and coyotes. The added benefit of the hay bales give him good back end support as he rubs those itchy spots.
Now if I could only get him trained to feed the hay bales in flakes off the Gator we would have a much easier time feeding the cows.
This is the time of year when we go through a lot of the hay that we had made during the summer. We are feeding twice a day so the cows have a constant supply since there is not much to graze upon when nothing is growing.
What’s left of haystack in bull barn.
Hay ready to be loaded onto in main herd barn.
We estimate we are about halfway through the hay we put into the barns. January 1st is considered our halfway point of needing to feed large amounts. Continue reading
As we completed the fourth and last field, the counter on the baler read 3073.
This number is good news and bad news.
The good news is that we have the barns stuffed full and there is plenty of feed for the herd. The bad news has to do with me.
Over the years we have spent on this farm, we have tried to produce enough hay for our herd without needing to go out to purchase and haul home more feed. The last 3 years we have had to augment our hay supply with purchases. I had adopted a mantra that was nearing the nagging stage, “five less cows, five less babies.”
It never seemed to be a good time to cull out the herd. Once I was told the market was too strong, the animals were too good a value to get rid of. The next year I was told the market was too weak and we would not get enough money for the animals if we sold them. Last year I was told that our current genetics are ‘just right’ and the critters were too high a quality to be thinned out.
I finally wore him down with my mantra holding strong through the years, Mike started to weed out a few candidates and he did bring down the total herd membership even though it was not yet as low as I was preaching about.
Now with the hay season nearing completion, we have enough bales to feed all the animals that we currently have. So we do not need to sell anymore of the breeding stock at this time. My mantra is on hold for a little while until the herd uses up this good supply of hay.
With the fourth and last field mowed flat then fluffed, it was time to start raking the rows of grass so the baler could come in to make the dried hay into bales.
As I came around the third turn and headed to where I began raking the field, I spotted a large something out near the middle of the field. Even with the camera zoomed as far as it was capable, it is hard to see the object. It is that darker spot located toward the line of fir trees to the left of the center of the picture. Continue reading