Unless you have downloaded the Met Office app, set your alarm for 6.25pm to catch the evening weather forecast, own a weather station or simply keep one eye permanently fixed on the sky you cannot really call yourself a proper Brit. As a nation we are frankly obsessed with the weather. This is often called charming, strange or met with titters from anybody from outside these islands, inexperienced with the changeable ways of Albionic skies. However, if you are in need of sunny skies, any Brit worth their national identity, will quite rightly be on edge during the hours and days preceding whatever event it is, praying (in a strictly non-religious sense usually) that the heavens do not burst. Anybody making hay at the moment certainly falls within this category of people.
For good hay you need a moisture content (being technical now) of no more than 20%. Any more than this and your hay will be likely to develop mould, decreasing the quality of the final product, the protein % and making it unpalatable to livestock which you definitely don’t want. Those making hay are looking for dry conditions from the time the grass is cut to the time the hay is baled and transported. If you manage to choose the window between the showers you will do well, but this is trickier than one might imagine.
This week we started cutting some of our hay fields and it has been a concerning time. Thankfully, so far at least, the weather has been kind, although writing this post now is possibly tempting fate! The small amounts of moisture in the air have been counteracted by sunny afternoons and a decent breeze to accompany. Tedding the hay (turning it using a spinning contraption which goes on the back of the tractor) has also helped. Not everybody today chooses to use a tedder but it certainly seems to be a useful tool in the armoury for us, just in case. We will only really know how we’ve done when it’s all baled and stored and the sheep tuck into it in the winter. It seems to have been a bumper year for grass, or so says the contractor who bales the windrows for us, and hopefully our crop will be higher than last year (which wouldn’t be difficult!), leaving some to be sold to the (lucrative) equine market. In a game that seems to swallow money left right and centre any extra income will be very welcome.
Good luck to all those haymaking (and silage and haylage making) this month! Wishing you bright skies and a bumper crop.