Making haylage whilst the sun shines

It’s a busy time of year for all farmers everywhere, getting their hay and haylage cut, spun, baled and stored for the winter. Here at Churchtown Farm, we’re no different – checking the weather forecasts even more religiously than usual, looking for that three-day window of opportunity when it’s warm, dry and sunny!

Haylage being but in our fields. We use smaller Alpine equipment, great for our small fields

Haylage being cut in our fields. We use smaller Alpine equipment, great for our small fields

After a May that didn’t behave as advertised – we hit one of Scilly’s notorious fog patches that just seemed to swirl round the islands for days making any drying impossible – our window finally arrived a week or two back. So our Outdoor Team got out to the fields without delay to get our first cut of haylage sorted.

In case you’re wondering, the main difference between hay and haylage is that to make haylage, the grass doesn’t have to be 100% dry – which makes it all the more suited, and less risky, to Scilly’s maritime climate. And unlike silage, which can be made from wet grass, it doesn’t need treating either.

Small bales are better for us at the farm as the cattle only need it as supplementary feed.

Small bales are better for us at the farm as the cattle only need haylage as supplementary feed.

Our first cut this year yielded a pretty impressive 290 bales – the wetter spring bringing on the grass nicely. And of course, we’ve honed our skills since last year, having got more to grips with our rather over sensitive Alpine farming equipment. (There’s still been some colourful language, mind you, when it’s not played ball!) We use Alpine gear because it small – fitting into our tiny fields and making the small bales we need. Small bales are great as the haylage is used only to supplement our cows’ diet in the winter so we don’t need much in one go. These bales can also be handled by one person with a quad and trailer, easier than having to take out a large tractor.

Hay ho! Nearly there with the last of our 290 bales.

Hay ho! Nearly there with the last few bales.

So a huge thanks goes out to the members of our team who stayed on in the fields for more than a few hours to help get the job finished.  We hope to get a second cut off some of our fields later in the year – which means getting out there all over again. Let’s just hope that there’s no more fog and that the machinery keeps going! We’re also thinking of using some rather fetching pink wrap next time an initiative which originated in New Zealand, but which is now supported by a number of UK and Irish farmers to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Breast Cancer Campaign.

We’re sure our Red Ruby cattle appreciate everything we do for them. They will of course be well catered for, come the winter months.

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