Baling and nutrient analysis

This month saw the last of the farm’s silage for 2013. The grass is at its best in the spring and early summer, and although it regrows each time it’s cut, it always has a little less quality and volume than the previous crop.

Mark in the field with Belle

Mark in the field with Belle

Once the decision comes to cut, Mark has to play a gambling game with the weather. He needs to give the grass a chance to dry whilst its laid out on the floor, but still give himself enough time to get the grass kicked out, baled, wrapped and stacked before any rainfall which could potentially ruin the crop.

Mark kicks out the grass to help any damp grass at the bottom of the pile dry in the sun.

Mark kicks out the grass to help any damp grass at the bottom of the pile dry in the sun.

Daniel then rakes the grass into larger ranks ready for Mark to bale the silage.

Daniel then rakes the grass into larger ranks ready for Mark to bale.

The bales are spread out across the fields and it’s Jess’s job to bring them in to Daniel who wraps and stacks them.

Jess moves the bales with the tractor.

Jess moves the bales with the tractor.

The whole family works together when they’re on silage, as each process leads into the next. It makes the tea break even more rewarding!

A well earned tea break.

A well-earned tea break.

The straw bales need to be protected so they stay dry and make good, clean bedding during the winter. The straw bales will shed any water which hits the bale on its edge, however, by stacking the bales one on top of another and laying sheeting over the top, Mark is able to stop water from penetrating the core of the bale. 

The bales are stacked and protected with sheeting.

The bales are stacked and protected with sheeting.

 Last year the sheet was caught in the high winds and blew away from the bales, but hopefully this year the sheet will be stopped from breaking free, by weighing it down with more bales.

Now the silage has been completed, Mark can have it analysed to examine its nutrient content. The first cut silage is usually the richest and the third the poorest grade. This is then also affected by the type of land, exposure to the elements and even the time of day it was baled.

Mark takes samples from the bales.

Mark takes samples from the bales.

 This nutrient analysis allows Mark to feed the right feed to the right cattle at the right time. For example, the Ruby Red cows will benefit from a lower grade silage than some of the Hereford crosses such as the Miss Marples, and this is also affected by the type of winter we have. If Mark makes a mistake, it may mean that the cows and sheep lose condition or become excessively fat. Ideally, each feed should be used as efficiently as possible by the spring. During November Mark will be concentrating on the start of calving, and getting the cattle housed for winter. He will also be selecting two breeding ewes to attend the local Helston Fatstock Show; follow next month’s blog to see how they get on.

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