Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Quality Pasture :: Chapter 9 Book Report

This chapter is titled, "Stored Forages", but it easily could have been called, "A Little Information About Nasty Hay, and an Intense Look at Silage." But, I guess that title would have been too long! Really, it was an interesting chapter, but I was surprised how quickly Allan Nation, the author, dismissed baled hay. He believes that hay is a good option in more arid climates (West?), while it may be a poor choice in moist or humid climates that receive decent amounts of rain.

I don't know if it is a little bit of, "conventional Iowa farmer", in me or what, but I don't know if I would write off hay so quickly. That being said, I do understand the benefits of silage, and if you are set up for that it can be slightly easier to harvest and store (although I absolutely love making hay, not that that is a good reason to keep doing it). Approximately two pages are dedicated to hay in this chapter, and the rest is dedicated to silage.

The conclusion that kept coming to my mind is that if I was doing a grassfed dairy on any scale or if I was keeping large herds with lots of land and capital, I might investigate silage more. But, in my part of Iowa we can get a decent small square baler, mower, and rack for a reasonable amount of money. Granted you will need a building to store the hay in, but in reality those buildings don't have to be anything overly special.

One interesting point that he mentions a few times in this chapter is that it would probably be more cost effective to have a contractor do all of your silage making rather than owning your own equipment. This will be an interesting thing to pencil out in the coming months and years, but I do see some benefit for this type of thinking.

So, does anyone have any thoughts or experience with silage? This really is something new to me, so I would like to learn and understand as much as I can.


sugarcreekfarm said...

We haven't tried silage, though we've considered purchasing it. But for hay we hire the cutting, Matt rakes it himself, and then we hire it baled into large round bales. We don't have room to store all of our hay inside. In the past we've stacked & tarped it. Now our baler guy netwraps it for us.

Ethan Book said...

Right now we are able to bale our own small squares and able to store them inside, but they are in storage all over the county! Well, not quite all over, but some are stored on the home place, some on a part of the farm that is 6 miles away, and some in an Amishman's shed! We are hoping to have some of our own storage next year.

Do you feel like you save money buy contracting your baling? Because you don't have to own the baler, repair breakdowns, and spend the time baling? It seems like it would make sense to me if it all penciled out right.

Anonymous said...


Me and my folks have experience with putting up silage, though we do it with our own machinery. We silage barley when it's at the milk stage, and chop it up and store it in a silage-pit for a few months. We feed it to stocker steers over the winter, as it gives them a bit of a boost to keep their energy levels up when it's bitterly cold. The stockers gain well on our home-grown silage, plus hay.

A lot of folks around where we live (North central Alberta) do that, and they also put up hay. Baleage (what you described as silage in a bale) isn't all that common up here, from what I know, but it can be done.

I don't understand why Nation puts baled hay down, but maybe it's because of the higher nutrient content found in silage than hay, and the finickyness of having the hay to get dry enough (can get ruined if rained on). From where you are, Ethan, I can see why silage is easiest to go by, with the amount of moisture it'd be pure luck of the draw to get a good few days of drying weather. Up here, our big round bales are stored outside all the time, though there are a few folks that'll store round bales inside just to keep the quality if they don't get the bales fed within the year.


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