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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Prairie Hay-More Winter Cow Feed

In a normal year, we would be getting ready to start putting up what we call prairie hay.  Our area, like much of the country is in a drought, so we moved up the prairie hay season a couple of weeks.

Prairie hay is the native grass that has always been here.  We live on the outer edge of the Flint Hills, the largest Tallgrass prairie area left in the world.  You can find a bit more information about the Tallgrass prairie here.

If you look across these fields from the road, it looks like a sea of grass, but if you stop and walk through the grass you will find there is a mixture of grasses, legumes and other broadleaf plants.   

The grass is the highest in nutrients when it is little and slowly loses quality as it grows.  We try to find the right balance of quality and quantity when we time our hay cutting.

We cut the hay with our tractor and mower and lay the hay out flat.  This lets the hay dry much quicker than if it were in a narrow pile. 

I was spoiled this year and the Farmer let me drive his tractor that can steer itself.  It has this cool little mini computer that is attached to a GPS satellite receiver.  All I had to do was turn the steering wheel at the end of the field and get the tractor pointed in the right direction, then push the little steering wheel  icon in the bottom corner and the tractor and satellites take over.

All this hands free driving allowed me to take a lot of pictures and video.  It also gave me a lot of time to think about how to add to the blog and how to get all the pages organized. 

After the hay lays in the field for a day (or less when it was as hot and dry as it was last week), we rake two of the mower swaths into a “windrow.”  A windrow in a long pile of hay that the baler can pick up.

Here is a video of our high school hired help raking through the field.  He was not too amused by being recorded and wouldn’t even wave at me.

He also took a video from the tractor cab while I drove.  This is what I could see from the tractor cab.

The Farmer drove the tractor that baled the hay for us. 

The baler rolls the hay into a giant hay roll kind of like a cinnamon roll.  

The baler makes the bales very tight so (hopefully) moisture can’t seep into the bale.  Moisture will make the hay rot or mold which isn’t good for livestock.  We also put net wrap on the outside of the bales to try to keep water from seeping in as well.

All of our hay barns are full, so this hay will be stored outside until it is fed.   

We try to put the bales in rows with enough room between the rows that air can circulate around them and keep things from rotting.  The bales are pushed tightly together to reduce water infiltration.

Our area is very dry.  We have had temperatures well over 90 degrees for several weeks and the south wind is blowing hard every day.  The ground is drying out really quickly.  In your yard, you may have  an irrigation system to keep your lawn green.  In our area, there is not very much ground that is irrigated, so when it gets hot and dry like this, the crops start to suffer and the yields are probably decreasing by the day.  If you don’t mind, say a prayer for rain for us tonight, we sure could use it.

My little 4-H’er has been busy getting projects ready for the fair.  He polished these rocks for 6 weeks this winter and then made me this set.  I can’t wait for the fair to get over so I can wear this set!!!  I have such a sweet kid.

He will tell you that these are Uruguayan Beach Agates.  Aren't they beautiful!

He has also been baking his little heart out which means my summer weight loss program isn’t going so well.  This is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Have a great rest of the week everyone and try to stay cool!  Don’t forget you can get daily updates, parenting tips and a few quick kitchen ideas(when I remember) on my Kansas FarmMom Facebook Page and don't forget to share my blog with your friends!

These are the first videos we have tried to record.  I obviously need a video camera and not my still camera that can take video.  I will add that to my wish list.  

Just joined the  Farmgirl Friday party over at Deborah Jean's Dandelion House.  Be sure to tell them Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom sent you.

-A Kansas Farm Mom