Saturday 25 January 2014

Why drive 300 km to collect hay?

On Thursday I made a 230 mile (320km) round trip to collect hay, the fuel cost alone almost doubled the cost from £3.25 to £5 a bale. So why do this, why don't I make it myself?

Hay making, Torridon 1940s
Writing about crofting agriculture during the 1940s Frank Fraser Darling observed that here in the W. Highlands, " haymaking is heart breaking". He goes on to point out that what appears to be a simple enough operation, reducing the moisture content of grass from 80% down to 16%, using sun and wind, is in fact the most difficult and risky business of the Crofter's year.

The quality and quantity of hay conserved determined the numbers of stock that could be carried through the winter of even the amount of milk to drink. He went on to say, " the time will come in this part of the world when hay making will be as common as cattle reiving (stealing), and just about as up to date". Well that time is here the last time hay was made on this croft was probably in the late 60s.

Mowing for haylage 2013
You need six good, dry, preferably sunny days to make hay successfully. Before internet 10 day forecasts I used to subscribe to a Meteorological Office hay making forecast, you got a telegram if there was a 6 day dry period on the horizon. As now it wasn't always accurate. Even on a small scale its a highly mechanised process now, you need a tractor, mower, turner/swather, baler and trailer. The cost of all that would outweigh my cost of transport from Glen Urquhart.

We rely on neighbours the Camerons who have the machinery to make "haylage". This is halfway between hay and silage, it comes in half tonne plastic wrapped bales and it can be made in a couple of good days.

Goats prefer hay, good green well made hay and they are probably more susceptible to listeria picked up from silage than are sheep, that's why I drive 230 miles to collect it.

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