Haying with barbecues


The Fourth of July is a fun holiday around our place. Our farm is at one of the highest elevations in our county, so watching firework shows – both professional and amateur – just requires some camp chairs in a pasture. Smoking steaks and a cooler of beer after milking makes for a great evening celebrating our country’s independence. For an even more impressive show, climbing the 80-foot Harvestore gets you above the trees. One year when I was a kid, I counted six towns’ firework shows visible at the same time.

We live around 1 mile from Elko Speedway. On some race nights, when the wind is in the right direction, I can hear every word of the national anthem and who won the heats. Every Fourth of July weekend since I can remember, the racetrack has had a special night of racing followed by a firework show. It was one of the highlights of my summer, probably because my aunt and cousin from Colorado also tended to visit that weekend and brought fireworks with them we could launch in the driveway while the adults constantly told us to be careful. Fireworks being illegal in the state at that time made it all the more fun. 

Usually we are halfway through hay by the Fourth of July. We get all our family members hanging out over the holiday weekend to help unload small square bales. This year, we haven’t even started cutting hay as the continuing drought set the hay back, and I’m waiting for there to be a bit more out there to cut. Last weekend, we received close to .75 inches of rain, which was just enough to nudge the hay into growing a bit. We make small squares to feed calves. They are easier for us to handle and portion to the calves than round or big square bales. I guess this year we will have to throw all those bales ourselves. 

We haven’t started cutting hay yet, but a Jersey-cross cow we dried off the other day named Fiona felt she should lead a group of young heifers out under a fence and into one of the hayfields. I now know that there is more hay than I expected after chasing them through the field. The hills are pretty awful, but the low spots are surprisingly tall and thick. I better keep looking for a hay merger though. There are places where even raking two rows together wouldn’t be enough to feed the chopper without it just pulling the material in and not cutting it. We used to have our hay custom chopped until maybe five years ago, and I still haven’t purchased a merger.

We were thinking we’d plant sorghum sudangrass or millet this summer, but based on the fact that late-planted soybeans around here just finally came up this week after almost a month in the ground, I’m glad we didn’t plow up the hayfield we were planning to plow. I doubt the seed would have germinated very evenly. Because most of the grass in the pastures is either dormant or growing extraordinarily slow, we fenced in that 36 acres and have been grazing it. I already have to feed a large square bale and a half a day to the cows to supplement the poor pastures. Here’s hoping we get some rain and they come around, or we’re going to have to sell off a lot more cows. Cull prices are at an all-time high right now, so we’ve shipped 10 cows in the last couple weeks and will probably sell some more off for dairy.

I’m off to get the dry cow and heifer group reunited and put them in a pasture with more robust fences. Then, I need to start getting hay equipment ready for next week. Until next time, keep living the dream and make sure you’re careful lighting those fireworks. You don’t want to have to explain how you lost a finger recreationally.

    Tim Zweber farms with his wife, Emily, their three children and his parents, Jon and Lisa, near Elko, Minnesota.


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