The pattern of everlasting, never-ending and always falling rain has finally, maybe too late, let up in northern Wisconsin and summer has arrived. The weather forecast showed more than three days in a row without rain and now the farmers are in constant motion, cutting, raking and finally baling hay. The sound of tractors pulling balers or rakes is constant and everywhere.
Hay is the food of winter. Hay is the difference of being able to support livestock and not. Not enough or too costly results in horses needing to be sold and cattle needing to be slaughtered for meat. I buy small bales for my horses, I like them to know who is feeding them and the small bales tend to be cleaner (not moldy). My neighbor, photos, makes large round bales. They’re usually cheaper per pound, but need special equipment to move.
Horse hay is grassy hay, so actually, right now is the usual time for it to be harvested for the first cutting. Cutting now gives the meadow nesting birds a chance to have raised their fledglings successfully. There are advantages to grassy type hay. The soils and climate in this county are really good for hay and trees. However, the lure of higher profits has tempted many to put in corn instead. And last year, for many up here, it worked, but not this year.
Alfalfa type hay, which is higher in protein, and needed for high volume milk production, and gets woody and less digestible the longer it grows – this is late for it. Alfalfa had trouble surviving the winter, there were seed shortages and then the fields were too wet; so dairy forage may be in trouble.
Last year was very dry. It parched the fields. Our winter held on forever with snow and more snow. This spring was very wet with rain and more rain. It soaked the fields. We don’t have good drainage in Taylor County, we have standing water and runoff.
But after five days of summer breezes and warm temperatures, soggy wetness is forgotten. It’s haying time! And it’s typical weather for haying, hot. So if you’re out in the fields you’re sweating and coated with dust and chaff. But it smells good, well, unless you’re allergic.
Hey, we’re going to have hay you hay-burners you!