Hay is used to provide feed to livestock when grazing is not feasible.
Although hay is not as nutritious as fresh pasture, utilizing the surplus of forage pastures during peak growing times for use as feed during our very cold Daylesford winter is essential, as there is limited pasture growth. We make and use both silage and hay for winter supplementary feeding.
This year’s unusually wet conditions during late winter and spring provided us and many other farmers throughout Victoria, with a bumper harvest – although “making hay while the sun shines” was looking as if it may have been very difficult as rainfall continued to tumble down in the latter months of 2016.
Although some of the hay is now getting stored away in sheds and heaps, for a while in November/December there were hay bales dotted profusely in paddocks as far as the eye could see. It was a very heart-warming sight. It is reassuring to know that this season’s hay stocks are going be a great insurance against any inclement seasons that we may experience in 2017 and beyond.
As with most things in farming there is an exact science behind good hay making. One of the most critical factors in making quality dry hay is timing. Harvesting at the right time and cutting the hay so that drying and baling can be done efficiently while maintaining the quality is paramount. The use of conditioners can reduce the time required to make the hay and lowers the chance of bad weather disrupting the hay making process. The hay is raked so that it dries as quickly and evenly as possible whilst maintaining the green colour, indicating that the hay is maintaining its food value. Hay should be stored, if possible, to protect it from deterioration.
We hope 2017 is a year where the seasons are kind to all farmers and maybe at the end of it we can again gaze with satisfaction and pride across hay filled paddocks.