Hay is one of those things that really does make the world go 'round. Without it, livestock in many areas of the world wouldn't survive the winter months and in some cases, the summer months as well. It's a science, the growing, cutting and baling of hay. The types of grasses/legumes/grains planted are chosen for many reasons - protein content when growing and when dried, palatability to the particular type of livestock being fed, type of ground, amount of water and whether or not the pasture is irrigated are just some examples. The type of livestock and in many cases, the breed must be taken into consideration. Hay isn't merely grass that has been cut, dried and baled. Horses have problems with fescue hay that was cut from non-endophyte free fescue. Angus cattle have very high protein requirements, while our breed, the Murray Grey, can eat rocks and dirt and get fat. Which means we have to keep our protein percentage in our hay lower or risk momma cows getting too fat before calving. Sheep are picky, and only like the finer stemmed grasses such as fescue and bentgrass. And then there is the weed thing. Today was a perfect day to go prerun the hay pasture, see if we've made any progress, growth-wise, and scout for weeds. Our pastures have many types of weeds, most of which we barely take note of. However, there are the big three that we scour the grounds for and ruthlessly dig and/or spray - blackberry, tansy ragwort and thistle, both bull and Canada. Last year, my SoCal pal Shelly was up for Black Sheep Gathering among other things, and we spent a few days walking the 12 acres with shovels in hand, slaughtering tansy and thistle. Today, Dale, Cricket and I drove the puttputt up and down doing the same. Tansy is one of those 'seriously, this is a lethal weed?' type of weeds. Yes, it is EXTREMELY toxic to most livestock. The toxins accumulate in the liver and kidneys, causing failure, and it's not something that washes out of the system. Once ingested, the toxins stay and once they reach a point, death occurs and not a good one. Luckily, most livestock won't eat tansy except as a last resort. It's a tough, determined weed with a mile-long taproot that means that when a non-irrigated, native bentgrass pasture like ours is dry and brown, the only green left is the tansy. And if stock are desperate enough, they will eat it. Some goat and sheep breeds can eat tansy without any ill effects, but it's deadly to cattle and horses. And the thistle and blackberry have nasty thorns that you don't want to encounter when you reach for that flake of hay, half asleep on a cold winter's morning, because rest assured that the neighbour's haven't heard words like that since the last episode of 'Deadliest Catch' or 'Axmen'.
The good news is that from the bleak outlook just a few weeks ago, the hay pasture has made up some serious ground. Between the fertilizer and the rain we've had lately, it's put on some seriously wicked growth. Grass that a few weeks ago didn't even cover the sole of my shoe is now knee high. I know Shelly was stoked, hoping that maybe this year would be the year she got to drive the tedder/rake, but I do think we'll be baling within the next two weeks. It's already laying over in spots and the vetch and clover are just thick as a great milkshake, and with temps next week expected to possibly even hit the 80's, the timing will be about perfect. Now, we just cross our fingers that we get a good yield and don't have to buy more this year again!
|Silly Cricket shows how tall some of the pasture is. There's places where it's twice her height|
|Just a pretty shot|
|I was trying to capture her luxurious butt bloomers as she was kangarooing thru the pastures, just for Leslie's enjoyment|
|There's something out there in the pasture. Can you spot and identify it?|
|This was hard to show, but it was a massive patch of white clover that was, well, massive. I've never seen clover this big before. One leaf was easily 2" across!|
|There are still areas where the grass hasn't gotten very high. This is native bentgrass that a few weeks ago wasn't covering the sole of my shoe|
|Shelly knows this thug. Tansy ragwort, bane of ranchers everywhere|
|A trailer full of trash|