This spring growing season has been a big one. Extra troops in the form of certified Angus cattle had to be brought in to eat down some of the extra grass.
Now the pastures have all dried off in the hot winds, in time for bushfire season.
Hay and silage are ways of keeping this year’s excess to help with next year’s probable drought.
Hay has to be very dry and ready to cut and store promptly in order to keep for a year or so in a hayshed.
It if gets too damp, hay can actually set fire to itself – spontaneous combustion. Thus haysheds have to have plenty of cross ventilation to cool the hay. The DPI has hair-raising information about daily testing of your hay bales with a crowbar to find out if they’re red hot inside. (link here)
So much for cutting the pasture into hay to protect against fire.
It’s still a good sight to see a full hay barn, though.
In the last couple of years our neighbours have been making silage instead of hay because the weather was too wet to make nice dry hay.
Silage is interesting because it’s actually fermented green plants that are stored air-tight. It can keep for many more years than hay as long as no air gets in. Our neighbour Frank has talked about opening up some airtight ground pits that were fourteen years old to find they were good to use. Andrew had some fields made into bales of silage wrapped in black plastic, but the plastic is only guaranteed airtight for a couple of years.
One of the other advantages of silage is that most weed seeds (which are chopped and fermented in the mix), aren’t viable to be spread afterwards. That’s according to a DPI study. So silage has some big advantages over hay, where (unless the whole thing catches fire) weed seeds are very viable afterwards.
With my mind on weeds, I was interested to see a field mown for hay that only a few weeks before had been a startling yellow mass of capeweed. Even if the capeweed had died off, presumably every bale would be full of seeds. And soon after, I saw another big field near Murrumbateman right next to an area that had just been treated for a Chilean Needle Grass infestation.
Maybe they did get every single needle grass tussock.
When I first moved back here, I went out and bought a lot of straw bales to use as mulch on the vegetable garden. Within a few weeks wild oats were growing enthusiastically out of it. Until then, I hadn’t really understood why Frank and Andrew were horrified when I suggested bringing in hay bales to peg out across the rocky slopes to make water retention banks.
” Where are you going to get your hay from?” Frank asked. I didn’t know. “My Dad would never buy hay unless he’d walked around the paddock first and checked it for weeds. Otherwise you’re just bringing in trouble.”
Right, as usual.