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Author Topic: hay, to grow or not to grow? :)  (Read 2737 times)


  • Joined Feb 2014
hay, to grow or not to grow? :)
« on: February 18, 2014, 04:24:39 pm »
hi smallholders

ive a field im not using for stock this year but stil have stock on other land who will still be expecting their quota of hay in the winter!

so has anyobe grown their own hay and if so how did you do it? i have no idea how to start and the internet i only offering advice on how to cut it, not how to grow it.

any help appreciated.... :P :fc:

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: hay, to grow or not to grow? :)
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2014, 04:39:50 pm »
It grows all by itself - just keep stock off the field once the weather starts to warm up. If you have molehills rake or chain harrow them down before shutting up for hay or the soil will be incorporated in the hay.  Depending on size of field, how level it is and how good the weather is you can take it as silage (cattle or sheep) haylage or hay (all stock).  The very best hay is meadow hay, which is cut before the stalks toughen up and (if you have ancient pasture) while the wild flowers are still in bloom. 

After lambing and shearing haymaking is our third big sigh of relief of  the year when it's been completed in a timely fashion, to a good standard and is safely in the shed.  If you have big round bales wrapped in net or plastic wrap they can stay on the field for a while, but small bales need to be carted the same day or they'll absorb moisture from the ground.  You may want to consider getting advice and haymaking services from a local farmer, who'll know the ground and the weather in your area.  The hay needs to be turned and dried just right or you'll end up with an expensive and slightly mouldy compost heap!


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: hay, to grow or not to grow? :)
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2014, 04:55:10 pm »
We grow our own hay for sheep, but it's a bit rich for horses.  The only fertiliser it gets is from animal droppings.  If you use an artificial fertiliser you will get a softer crop, which appears to grow lush and tall, but promptly lodges (falls flat) in the first heavy rain of summer.

To harvest hay, do it ideally when the seed heads are well formed for some protein content. Just when depends on where you live, but sometime in early summer.  If you leave it too long it will just be dead grass.  The weather is the main factor in achieving a good hay crop.  Depending on where you live you need about 5 days of sunshine and a light breeze, plus another day for it to cool down after baling and before stacking.
For the actual making and harvesting you will need a tractor, a mower, a turner of some type such as a hayzip or haybob, a baler, a trailer to cart it, plus a team to do the work and somewhere to store it.  An alternative is to use a contractor to do the work, or perhaps a local farmer who makes his own hay will do it for you, in return for half the crop.  If you go down the route of someone else cropping it, you have to wait your turn so losing the whole field to bad weather becomes an increased risk.
A final option if you have an acre or less is to scythe it, turn it by pitchfork then cart and stack it.  To use it, you need a hay knife to slice the stack up.

Updated to add: growing hay, as with so many farming matters, is an all-year-round job.  Once it's cut and cleared, young sheep go onto the aftermath, keep it trimmed and tillered, and add their dung.  Over the winter, make sure there are only a few animals on so the ground doesn't get poached and turned into a muddy morass.  Weeds need to be kept down - nettles will respond to frequent cutting with a lawn mower and removal of the clippings to the compost heap (it looks funny but it works); thistles need to be eliminated - the best time to dig spear thistles (we do ours by hand) is just as the flower stalk is put up, so they have expended their energy making the flower and shouldn't grow back.  If you just snap them off they will grow back sixfold - dig them out root and all, then back fill the hole.  Creeping thistle can be controlled by mowing as with nettles, or both can sometimes be eradicated by the sheep close grazing the pasture, especially primitive sheep.  Wild flower type weeds are to be encouraged so there is a varied sward, full of nutrients and trace elements to make a top quality hay.  Don't let brambles, cleavers, burrs and so on get a look in, and be vigilant to remove every single ragwort plant and destroy it.  Sheep can eat a small amount of the first year rosettes, but too much, and the flower stalks are poisonous to many types of livestock.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2014, 05:23:54 pm by Fleecewife »

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  • Joined May 2013
Re: hay, to grow or not to grow? :)
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2014, 05:53:39 pm »
we grew it the first year we were here and got a contractor to to it for us. it cost us £5 a bale - when hay was selling for £10. i dont know what it would cost now as bales are now selling for £25-£35 here now.
the downside was we were last in the queue for getting it cut, and it had blown over by then so it wasnt very good hay. BT had even driven over the field to replace their poles the week before cutting so it never really stood a chance of being good quality.
id love to be able to do it all myself though.


  • Joined Oct 2011
Re: hay, to grow or not to grow? :)
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2014, 06:42:05 pm »
Never made hay my self but my step father has and I've bought more hay in 30 years in various types of bales than I would like.
 If its a trial I would hold off the fertiliser, you will get lusher grass and more of it but it will be harder to dry and bale, if its fine grass you can get away with getting it a bit wet or cutting it late, it will not be as good but it will be edible. My step father always used to bale to soon, hay if its the slightest bit damp will cook, most of his was only fit for hungry cattle, I would never buy his hay.
 If you can get someone to buy it standing in the field, or do a deal about paying in bales then they have an investment in making good hay.

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: hay, to grow or not to grow? :)
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2014, 08:22:42 pm »
Even in last year's wonderful (if very late) haymaking weather our meadow hay was turned twice but it made in three days.  Research has shown that turning the crop an hour after it's first cut really speeds up the drying process.  You can go out with a selective spot weeder backpack spray in the next few weks and clobber the first growth of docks and nettles.  Thistles can be destroyed by going out now and ramming your heel into the middle of the central rosette. 

Because you can't go trampling round on the grass once it's been shut up for hay some weeds will always germinate after spraying.  Once it's been cut we go along the lines of hay with old feed sacks and pick up the flowering head of the docks, then put them on the bonfire.  Our dock burden has definitely reduced every year because of this. 


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