It is haymaking time and provided the weather stays dry this week more of our fields will be cut, allowed to wilt and then turned in the sunshine for 2-3 days to dry out the grass and then formed into rows for the baler to collect and bale the dried grass into large round bales. If it rains during the process then the hay or haylage may be spoilt.
Most of our grass is made into haylage which is a semi-dry forage (50-60% moisture) that is then wrapped in plastic to keep it moist and dust free until we are ready to feed it to the donkeys during the cold winter months when they are kept in their warm barns.
Yesterday I visited Town Barton Farm where Colin was driving a tractor with the baler attached. I rode in the tractor with him (sitting on a tiny passenger seat) and learnt about the round baling process. Colin advised how he assesses the quantity of grass in each row and mentally judges how many rows will make a bale. The baler has an indicator light to identify when the bale is full and it automatically wraps the bale with netting to contain it. The bale is then carefully dropped out of the baler. I say carefully because the field is on a slope and the bales can easily roll away down the hill!
It was nice to see the buffer zone around the edges of the fields. We leave a strip uncut for the wildlife and are rewarded by the occasional sighting of deer and hare.
The bales are transported to the barn by Matt who drives the telescopic handler, where they are put onto a wrapping machine and then once they are wrapped the are moved to a storage area where they are stacked.
We are self-sufficient and make enough hay and haylage to feed all the donkeys on all our farms in the UK. Once the hay has been made, the fields can be used by the donkeys for grazing during the remainder of the summer. In the autumn and/or spring (depending on how wet the ground becomes) we spread our composted donkey dung onto the fields. This acts as soil conditioner and provides nutrients for the next year's grass.