So, how do we do it?? Well, we have our new pasture and the back pasture. The cattle are out on the back pasture with the pond for water. The small livestock is in the new pasture around the house. When fall comes and the weather changes we will worm the small livestock and then rotate them. The sheep and alpaca will got in the East pen. The goats will go into the shetland pen and the cattle will come to the front pasture and the back part will get a break. Then in the spring we will worm everything again and the cattle will go back to the back pasture and the small livestock will once again come out onto the front pasture. At that point the men will all got to the man pen. In the fall and winter we have no man pen because we have the men in with the girls. So the man pen is at rest. The only pasture that doesn't go empty at least one season is the new front pasture but we don't let the animals eat it all the way down either.
Since we aren't a large farm we limit the number of animals we will have in our herd/flock. We keep the numbers down so that there is more grass then needed to feed the animals all summer. That way since the livestock doesn't eat all the grass we have plenty to hay. That, with the Right-of-way we own, we have more then enough hay to get us through the winter and some extra to sell.
With all that in mind, Yes we do use older equipment to hay. And yes, we have looked at getting newer fancier equipment in the past. The problem is that the equipment costs tens of thousands of dollars and for the amount of hay we do it just isn't worthwhile. Another issue with new equipment is that if we get new equipment we have to purchase a new tractor to handle the bigger, fancier equipment. And all that new equipment can cost a pretty penny.
Yes, there are other options that we have tried. We once contracted our hay pasture out to be hayed. I am sure you guessed that since we don't do that anymore that means it didn't go very well. As it turned out, the man cut the grass down smooth to the dirt leaving nothing for our cattle to graze through the winter. Then when it was dry our pasture was just a dustbowl. With so much dust, it lead to pink eye in the cattle and caused respitory health issues in the babies.
Well, we desided from there on out that we would take care of our own pastures and from that day forward we always have. With a few minor changes. #1 we don't use a disc mower. We use a 9ft sickle. Because the sickle is from an older time it isn't as efficient as the newer disc mowers of today. In this case we think it is a good thing. Here is why.
- If you look at the picture of the front pasture close enough you can see the lines left by the sickle and you can see that it leaves one side a bit longer then the other. This is actually left because the sickle is old and it bounces a bit as it vibrates and mows the grass. On the other hand that is what we leave for the livestock to graze for the winter. When we get some rain it will start growing again and then shoot up stocks with seeds to seed new grass for the following year. We think this practice works better for us then any other.
By doing this and keeping the number of animals we can have at a constant rate we are able to support our herd/flock year round on our own grass in the form of grazing pasture or hay. Speaking of hay ... We use both Round and small square bales on our farm. The back cattle pasture will be cut and raked by us but a friend will come roll it up in to big round bales for us and we supply him with the small square bales he needs for the winter. The other part of the pasture and the right-of-way will be put up in small square bales. We put up enough for us and then sell the rest to a couple of buyers that we have. We then feed round bales to the sheep and alpaca pen and the cattle. The Goats and horses are fed small squares bales. Yes, it is the same hay. So why do we feed square bales to some things and round to others?
To be honest there is no magic formula. We feed large round bales when there is enough room in a pen to allow it to be brought in with the tractor. The front pasture is large enough easy and the sheep/alpaca pen is fine too. But it wouldn't be such an easy thing to get big round bales through a few of the gates we have like the Goat pen and the horse pens. And in those pens the big round bales would take up so much space and the animals wouldn't have anywhere to move around to. So Square bales it is.... Same great taste just a different shape and size.
I hope I didn't leave any questions unanswered ... If I did drop me a line and I will be happy to answer it... And make sure to read the blog on Sunday ... We have a little surprise coming up. Okay, two surprises actually and yes both on Sunday ...