It’s time to make some hay. I love cutting and putting up hay, especially the first crop. After a long winter, this year seeming especially long, it’s nice to start putting away feed for the cows instead of feeding it to them. Wondering if I have enough feed to make it to that unpredictable date when the pastures are in enough that I can stop feeding stored feed for the summer gets old pretty quick. This year getting the cattle on pasture was a couple weeks later than I prefer, and the grass didn’t come through winter in as good of shape as I wish it had. But, thanks to a decent hay year and a lot of purchased bales, we had plenty on hand to not be worrying about the extra days of feeding stored feed.
I’m always happily surprised by how much time is freed up when the cows go out to pasture. We rotationally graze. After decades of building fences and lanes a bit at a time and buying miles of poly wire and many, many posts, we have it set up so that in a few hours I can ready a little under a week’s worth of grazing for the cows. Once break fences and water tanks are in place for a few days of grazing, it’s just a matter of locking them out there after milking and bringing them back to the barn when it’s time to milk again. Cows harvesting their own food and hauling their own manure is a beautiful thing because all that time we don’t spend on those tasks seems to go into putting up feed for the long winters we have. Makes me wonder what farmers do with all their time in areas where they can graze most of the year.
We didn’t plow anything up last fall even though there was at least 36 acres that needed to be cycled out of hay for a year to plant back down to a better mix of legumes to grass. I couldn’t have picked a better year to put off plowing too long then having the ground freeze before getting the job done. This spring has not been a good one for working heavier clay soils with many wet spots like we have here. The current plan is to haul the heifer shed and some stored manure on one of the fields and plant it down after we take the first crop off. Whether the weather will allow that is yet to be determined, but that’s the plan anyhow.
I didn’t get around to writing this column outside my head before it was time to start hay and figured it was no big deal, because usually as soon as I get some hay down, the clouds will build up to the west, and I’ll have a day or two where no hay is getting done leaving plenty of time to write my Dairy Star column. Surprisingly, we had five good days before that happened, and thus, my column is a day late. The rain didn’t disappoint though. It showed up as soon as I got to the field with the Discbine this afternoon and proceeded to sprinkle on me while I finished cutting 25 acres I did the outside rounds on last night. Kind of annoying as we had eight acres that would have finished filling a bag laying ready to chop in another hour or so. Such is life as they say. On the plus side, I got to reward my kids’ hard work helping put up hay and milk cows this week with a trip to the rock-climbing gym I had promised we’d take when we eventually got rained out. They also helped prepare all the equipment before we started by greasing and airing up tires while I did repairs on things we found might fail if we didn’t take care of them before getting going. They definitely deserved a night off to go have some fun doing something active that didn’t include tractor step climbing and PTO swinging.
Hopefully your hay crop is coming along well and the rain waits until you want a day off rather than soaking your nearly dry hay. Until next time, keep living the dream, and watch that forecast before dropping more hay than you can afford to watch sit in the field waiting for it to dry.
    Tim Zweber farms with his wife Emily, their three children and his parents Jon and Lisa by Elko, Minnesota.