I will be using rotational grazing on just 7 acres with a
few cows and goats. I also have access to my neighbor’s
8 acres for grazing or forage production. I am looking for
innovative ways to collect forage for winter, hopefully without
buying a bailer.
The value of collected forage for winter feeding has been
known for hundreds of years. Obviously no balers were available
then. This means that hand tools were used to cut, gather,
and move the material from the field to the barn or storage
area. Scythes, sleds, carts and wagons were all used. Today,
many small growers still use hand scythes or small tractor-mounted
sickle mowers to cut the grass, then transport the material
with a pickup truck or trailer. There may be other options
as well. A check of the neighborhood may turn up equipment
that can be borrowed or even a custom operator who will come
in and, for a fee or percentage of the crop, do all the work
for you. Depending on your time constraints, this may be a
Hand cutting or even sickle mowing works best on grass hay
which is allowed to get ‘older’ in the field.
This will reduce drying time. When modern equipment is used
to cut alfalfa or clover, it crimps the material to speed
up drying. Most hay growers with access to equipment also
turn and rake their hay to control the drying process. This
is quite difficult to do by hand. There is equipment available
from garden tractor and horse-drawn size to the biggest and
the best. You'll need to balance the expense of the equipment
against the time you have available.
Good luck and happy hay making.
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