Very wet year so far
I've been slacking on keeping my website updated, but I should have known that would happen when the hay started to grow. The first cut for 2016 was in mid-May. This was the earliest we have ever cut and I knew that it was going to be an experiment. Some people may wonder why a hay farmer cares about making an early cut. It makes sense that we would get more volume the later we cut but with that logic the quality of those cuttings would be reduced. We plant our hay fields to pure Orchardgrass so that is what I'll always be referring to. The biggest problem that most people have with first cut hay is that it is stemmy. First cut is stemmy because of the seed heads that are produced. This is where our early first cut comes in to try to reduce the amount or the thickness/diameter/pokiness of the stems. We pushed that thought process a bit too far this year, though. The first cut this year was so early that a lot of the seedheads hadn't erupted from the stem, they were forming inside the stem still. At first this seemed like a big benefit to making nice, palatable hay, but it was soon to become a big negative. We cut when there were "Fire Weather" warnings, it was dry, low humidity, sunny, and windy for four or five days. We cut the hay on day 1, tedded on day 2, tedded on day 3, and raked and baled on day 4. Moisture probe on baling day was reading between 10-15%, good. The next day we were planning on delivering the hay but overnight they had started to shift on the trailer. That is usually an indicator of soft bales or bales that are heating, so we stuck our hands in and retested with the moisture probe. They were quite warm to the touch and the probe was reading 18-25%!! No good, basically all the hay was going to cook, some may say cure, some may say mold. All are bad outcomes. Tough lesson learned.
The point of that rambling was that in the process of trying to make a very premium product of minimal stem first cut, we tried to do it too early. With the seed heads in the stem, they couldn't dry and they were still forming so they were very green and "sappy" for lack of a better word. The outside of the stems were probably 10-14% moisture on baling day but the inside of the stems was probably still 20-30% moisture and when baled the entire bale is going to equalize in moisture, causing the previously dry leaves to absorb moisture from the greener stems. No bueno.
After that adventure it rained...a lot. The next batch of first cut wasn't until early June, with each cut spread out a lot because of multiple rainy weeks on top of each other.
We are just now starting to finish up our second cut and think about third cut.
It's also worth mentioning that we are beginning to make multiple cuttings of alfalfa into small square bales. We've been dabbling our toes in alfalfa for a few years but this year we should have a couple thousand bales of different cuttings of nearly pure alfalfa. Some is around 60 days of growth, others are 30 days of growth. Forage lab test results are posted on the Forages page.
In other news, we added a building to our operation this spring. It will serve as a hay staging area during the summer to pull in loaded wagons and gooseneck trailers of hay right from the fields to get everything under cover quicker on baling days. We hope to have some hay and alfalfa in it for the winter but we also hope to have enough room for a lot of the equipment to finally be inside for the winter. Pictures attached. It's 60' X 98' with 17' wall height.