Hay, Hay, Hay
In the course of the last few years, those sniffing around for a lifestyle block have discovered the Fairlie district big time. And they in turn have attracted agricultural contractors who cater to their needs.
Lifestylers with few or no stock animals need to get that paddock or two cut for hay come January, before the grass gets too seedy and rank – more straw than hay, a mass of dry, incendiary stalks.
When we stopped making hay (must have been at least ten years ago), sourcing the stuff would drive us nuts, but not as crazy as relying on a contractor’s bendy time schedule -one year as late as March! – and the weather.
Not being able to source small bales locally, we resorted to getting it from a guy in Timaru; he charged top dollar no matter what the season had been like, and we had transport costs on top of that. True to my mantra, I’d moan to June: “Not ideal.”
Then the local ‘lifestyler’ revolution got up a head of steam, and four years ago Chris steamed right on in with it. And true to the slogan he uses to promote his contracting business in the Fairlie Accessible, our community newspaper: ‘We’re the big guys who get the little jobs done’. The first year he charged five dollars and delivered it for free. The next year he added a dollar for delivery.
We would have had to pay an extra $2.50 last year and this – that gives you quite an incentive (when it’s $5 a bale for the hay itself), to travel to the paddock and load it on your trailer hot off the baler. Both years, three there and backs of about 8km each way – still works out a lot cheaper than the added $150 he’d have charged for dropping off our sixty bales.
June’s browse, browse, browse, hay, hay, hay we need the hay every day dairy goats get all but a dozen of the bales. They’ve got five acres and most of it our best land; fourteen paddocks, lots of hay, mineral supplementation, dry feed, willow and poplar twigs. I’m not surprised they’re in better nick than me!
I have two Dexters and two ten month old three quarter Dexters and even my crossbreeds when full grown won’t weigh much more than half the weight of a Hereford. One of the Dexters is booked in with a mobile abattoir and with a bit of luck will be in the freezer by the end of January. I say luck because butchers also have a bendy schedule and wait till a property with just the one animal lines up with others on a specific travel circuit.
So by late summer the plan is to have just two small cows and one small steer. In three years time, the Dexter cross steer will go to the saleyards, the Dexter cross cow will be meat for our table, and I’ll restock with a couple of Dexters or Dexter cross weaned calves. Violet, my nine year old pure bred Dexter matriarch will just keep on keeping on.
Not so long gone, but please, please tell me they are gone – the days when I overcomplicated things. Keep it simple stupid (kiss, kiss) is now the order of the day.
Understocked is a far happier place to be than overstocked. I know from bitter experience, like so many with few acres: chewed right down there’s nowhere else to go.
Nowadays, my very small herd, tiny in number and tiny in stature, wrap their big rasping tongues around long grass as they are rotationally grazed through eighteen small paddocks spread over four acres.
With plenty of feed (as long as there’s not a prolonged drought), they go into winter fat on all the pasture they can possibly stuff into themselves. Even when feed gets tight over summer, there’s still enough saved pasture for what the ag. boys and girls call ‘deferred grazing’ for cattle on a ‘maintenance ration’.
And over winter that’s what I aim for: cattle that maintain a healthy weight and condition, without the need to keep piling it on to get to a certain weight in a hurry; they’ve got four years of as good a life as I can give them to get there.
I do need to feed out hay to the cattle when the snow’s so deep that it’s completely buried the grass. The last time we had a lot of snow was 2016, and even then I had a couple of paddocks with sufficient long stalky grass poking through to keep the cow’s fed until the snow melted after a couple of weeks.
But one thing’s for certain, mighty dumps of snow are sure to keep paying us visits. Climate change weather extremes, despite an overall global warming trend, as good as guarantee that. When we’re snowed under, the cows will be moved to the small ‘Feedout’ paddock near the house and it’ll be hay, hay, hay.
That’s all on modern-day homesteading for this week. Next Monday I’ll tell you why June harvests 1500 red clover flowers mid-summer. And no it’s not for flower arrangements.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.