Last Thursday, the big harvest project was HAY. We brought in our third (and final) cutting of the year, and it was extremely rich in alfalfa. The way hay works, three cuttings is considered a good/standard year. The field is planted in a mix of grass and alfalfa; the latter is what provides most of the protein in hay. The first cutting of the spring is very heavy in grass, but has some alfalfa. This year, thanks to a good application of fertilizer last fall, we got 465 bales in our first cutting. We brought in the second cutting on July 14th, and got 240 bales; it was less bulky, due to the grass slowing down in the heat of summer, but richer in alfalfa.
This year’s third cutting was only 123 bales, but they were overwhelmingly alfalfa and will provide a wonderful, protein-rich supplement for the sheep this winter. And in case you’re keeping count, cutting #2 yielded 51% of the number of bales we got in cutting #1. And cutting #3 yielded 51% of the bales we got in cutting #2. That is par for the course. You get fewer bales as the year goes on, but they’re richer.
The farmer who helps us decided that he would make a single trip around the field making bales and stacking them on the hay rack; that was pushing the upper limit of what the rack could hold, but he didn’t want to waste time making two trips to the barn. Instead, he stacked the bales seven high. Our two youngest kids, who’d been riding around on the rack as the bales came it, had the absolute time of their lives: as the bales stacked higher, they got to climb higher. And higher. And higher. By the time the tractor and hay rack were coming in to the barn, they were literally almost as high up as the power lines running from the road to our house. They needed a ladder to come down.
It’s a wonderful sense of security to have many hundreds of bales of hay stacked to the rafters in the big red barn. We have much more than we’ll need for the next year, but our thinking is that we shouldn’t sell any. If drought conditions limit next year’s harvest, we’ll be very glad to have these extra bales in the winter of 2010-2011…especially because, in a drought year, hay purchased on the open market would be extremely expensive. And it’s not like this stuff goes bad, as long as you keep it dry in the barn. If next year’s harvest is another bumper one, we might sell some of that hay.