Did you know cows eat a better balanced diet than most humans? We’re continuously checking their diet to ensure they receive the nutrients they need. In my previous posts I talked a lot about growing corn to feed our cows. Corn is not the only thing we feed them, we also feed them hay, in a couple different forms that I’ll explain in a minute.
While the corn is growing, we are harvesting hay. I love hay harvest. If you love the smell of fresh cut grass, you would love this time of the year. It is like smelling a giant lawn being cut.
What makes hay unique from different crops is we can actually get several cuttings of it each growing season. Just like your lawn continues to grow all summer long, so does the hay. About every 28-30 days we are getting a new cut of hay.
On our farm we harvest hay in two ways: either for dry hay or for haylage. Today, I want to share with you how we make haylage.
Haylage is an important ingredient in our “cow casserole” recipe that we feed the cows every single day. Haylage is a fermented feed, which means we harvest it a little wet and then put it on a pile and seal it up. When we seal it up, fresh air doesn’t get to the haylage which means it ferments. We don’t dry the plants out completely like we do hay.
There are several steps to harvesting haylage. The first is we have to cut it. The mower we use isn’t like your lawn mower, although it does sound like it. When we mow a field of hay we want to cut it off but also keep the integrity of the plant so it continues to grow throughout the summer. We want to keep the plant in as good condition as possible. The mower cuts the hay and lays it down on the field to dry out some.
When the hay has dried out enough, we merge it. Which means we put the hay into bigger stacks. The next step is to chop it. The chopper comes along and picks up the stacks of hay and chops it into smaller pieces and then shoots it into a trailer to be hauled to the storing area. The hay is dumped into a pile and packed as tightly as it can be by a heavy tractor that drives over it numerous times. Then it is covered and sealed and left to ferment before it will be fed to the cows.
Haylage is a wonderful feed for cows as it provides protein, fiber and energy among other vitamins and nutrients. I would compare haylage and hay for a cow to vegetables and fruits for us!