I can't claim to be an expert on hay, but I've certainly learnt an awful lot about making it over the past few weeks!
Since owning cattle we have spent a lot of money on hay, in round bales and square bales, to feed to our animals when we ran low on grass. For ages I couldn't understand why the cattle didn't eat the dead dry grass in winter. It seemed to me to be exactly the same as hay. Well I only recently figured out that hay is not just dead dry grass! Hay is grass cut in its prime and allowed to dry to just the right amount before baling. Hay contains maximum nutrition for the cattle, that's why they like it so much.
When we purchased our new property, a crop of forage sorghum on the top cultivation area had just been cut for hay, and was starting to grow back. By the time we owned the property 6 weeks later, it was ready to be cut again. We engaged a contractor (neighbour) to cut the sorghum using a "mower conditioner" which cuts the stems near the base and feeds them through rollers, so that the stems are crushed and will dry more evenly. We allowed the sorghum to dry on the ground for several days and then ran over it with a "hay rake" that we bought with the property. This turns the hay to allow it to dry more evenly. Depending on the hay and weather, this may be done several times, but as we had hot dry days and only a thin covering of sorghum, we only ran over it once. Our neighbour then came back and baled the hay into large round bales, which we stacked in the hay shed, using the hay spike on the tractor.
the sorghum when we bought the property
after the sorghum was cut
raking the sorghum into windrows
And then baled by our neighhour
Moving the bales in the shed
Two little helpers....
48 bales from just a small section of our cultivation area
It may seem like a lot of work to make this hay, but we know that it will help our future herd of cattle gain weight more quickly and make more money. We don't know what kind of hay will be the best yet, we want to try a few different ideas and learn for ourself how to improve the cattle weight gain most effectively.