Sunday, October 2, 2005

hay for the cattle

See the lovely, healthy little alfalfa plants in our field?  You can also spot blades of orchard grass here and there.

In a previous entry, I mentioned that it cost over $400 for seed and fertilizer for under five acres of alfalfa.  That's expensive if the crop doesn't make it, for instance if it hadn't rained after we planted.  But thank the good Lord it did rain.  Now if we get the spring rains next year, we should be set.

The wonderful thing about alfalfa is that we'll get, in a good year, four cuttings of hay.  Probably over 300 bales the first cutting and more than 200  even on the final cutting of the year.  Alfalfa hay is selling hereabouts for no less than $3 a small square bale, and I've seen people asking $4.  If you do the math, you'll see that the first cutting would pay for the costs of planting.

But it doesn't stop there:  An alfalfa planting is usually good for at least four years, although each year the yield is a little less.

Alfalfa is a legume, so it actually enriches the soil with nitrogen.  The roots go down more than 15 feet into the earth.

The first cutting of the year is often diminished by damage caused by the pesky alfalfa weevil.  "Real" farmers spray for these pests.  Cliff just watches closely, and when it looks like the pesky little varmints are going to take the whole crop, he goes ahead and cuts and bales the hay.  For some reason the bugs don't bother the crop the rest of the year.

When the crop has dwindled to the point there isn't enough hay to be worth the effort (usually four years, for us) you cannot plant more alfalfa in that field.   "Alfalfa is one of the few plants that exhibit autotoxicity. Alfalfa seed will not grow in existing stands of alfalfa because of this. Therefore, alfalfa fields must be plowed down or rotated before reseeding."  (That's from Wikipedia.) 

While alfalfa hay is the best thing you can feed cattle, you can't turn them in and let them graze it in the field, unless you limit their time there.  Cows bloat on legumes (I've called the vet more than once for a bloated cow).  Horses would founder, given free grazing rights to alfalfa; and even the amount of cured alfalfa hay fed to horses has to be limited.  The horse I used to have had been foundered, and if you gave him alfalfa hay, he'd start limping within hours of his meal.

Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about our hay crop.


ksquester said...

I loved this lesson. Anne

ora4uk said...

Hey are better than any "old encyclopedia" LOL....and we are never to old to learn something new...being a city girl...I learned to figure out what I am going to do with that knowledge LOL....Love and hugs Missouri girl....

bookncoffee said...

Wow all this was very interesting.

astaryth said...

Boo loves his T & A, or he did ... and for you others reading this, get your minds out of the gutter, that stand for Timothy and Alfalfa <g>. I usually try to get my T&A with more timothy than alfalfa because of alfalfa being such a 'hot' feed. That way I can throw a little extra out when it's cold and not worry about founder, etc. BUT, currently Boo has decided that he does not care for T&A and prefers peanut hay. Luckily I've got a guy who sells me bales of peanut hay right now. I'm hoping that this problem of not liking his T&A is because I had his teeth done. <LOL> I usually pay between $10 and $14 for a bale of T&A, but we get the rectangular bales, and they can be quite heavy. I'm only paying $7 for the peanut hay, so Boo is actually saving me money!

healthygene said...

SURE DO WISH you would run a TOUR SERVICE withbthe things you have going.

When summer comes you can put up a few tents and run an INDIAN SUMMER

"DOWN ON MOSIES FARM"  Paint some spots on the horses, an get some eagle
feathers fo r the girls head an some WAR paint.

YOU could even HIRE some local REAL TOM TOM BEATERS

csandhollow said...

Orchard grass hay gets 4-6 dollars in the field here this year. That used to be what you paid for Bermuda grass bales! We need to do some seeding.

memes121 said...

I think it is very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

siennastarr said...

I love learning something new!  Thanks for the lesson, teach! :)