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farming hay

Haying the Field

There are a lot of different opinions on how to supplement hay to cattle when on pasture. The majority opinion appears to be to put out just enough hay to keep the cows from breaking out of the pasture and finding their own elsewhere. Also, most would use a hay ring or indoor feeder to keep the hay as long as possible to reduce hay costs.

An alternative, as illustrated by Greg Judy, is to hay the field, not just the cattle — and not in the traditional sense.  By hay the field, we mean to put out a lot more hay than necessary to add boost the productivity of future forage growth.  This is what we are doing here at Red Alpha Farms.  We’re putting out a significant amount of hay that the cattle can further enrich with nutrients as they eat and loaf around.  We’ve been doing this with a couple of cows and horses for nearly a year now, but more recently it has increased significantly with the increase in our cattle herd.

After years of no maintenance, we began mowing the field in January of 2019. We mowed 4 times over 2019 and that has nearly eliminated weeds, significantly increased the amount of biomass in the soil, and has turned the soil from clay and read to dark and rich. Before this year, you could count the number of mole hills in the field without taking off your shoes. Now, it would be a difficult task to attempt. Moles thrive in areas with good soil that has lots of bugs – we just didn’t have good enough soil before to support moles.

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