Our sheep eat "baleage" in the winter which is hay that is "ensiled" in white ag plastic. It is also called haylage and silage or "giant marshmallows" by the little kids that don't know about farming. The hay was harvested last summer by The Farmer and then stored along side the different hay fields. The white plastic acts as a pickle jar and preserves green hay so that it can be fed during the winter. He has to drive the tractor (no cab) in the freezing cold to pick up the hay. Most of the fields are a few miles away. Lots of driving in the cold. If we had a second loader tractor, he could transport several bales at once on the back of a hay wagon but that isn't in the budget. He tries to do it on the warmer days. This winter it has been extremely cold - even for here. Every night, he comes home so exhausted and tired from the cold. I help in the mornings tailing and numbering the sheep and this year we even have a couple of apprentices helping with this job. Thank you Terri and Liz.
The following is a step by step of morning feeding of a bale. A bale weighs over 800 lbs. I stay away when they drop to the ground. The dicey part of feeding big bales like this is making sure the lambs and ewes stay away when the bale is dropped. A bale can easily kill a 200 pound ewe so my job is to shoo them all away - and stay away from the bale myself.
The bale is dropped from the grabber bars of the tractor.
The Farmer uses his handy dandy knife to cut through the white plastic.
When the bale is opened, it smells both sweet and sour. Different bales must taste different. Sometimes the sheep just pick at them and sometimes they eat them so quick - kind of like a kid eating ice cream. Sometimes they smell so awful that I can't stand to walk past the farm clothes The Farmer wears when feeding them when they are on the wing chair in the living room in the evening.
You can see extra bales sitting along the edge of the woods.
The ewes know that they are being fed a fresh bale now. If they are too hungry, they can crowd in which gets dangerous. It's important to keep them all well-fed.
Some of the bales go directly on the ground and some go in feeders like below. If we had unlimited money, we would have more feeders but that isn't happening. Feeding on the ground means we waste hay but nothing is perfect in the world of farming.
What we are left with is massive amounts of white plastic. It is one of the unfortunate things about putting up baleage. Our county is working on a plan to truck all this white ag plastic to a plastic plant to be recycled. That is good news. We have two years of white plastic sitting in a pile. Now to find the time to bag it all up and transport if they get it together to take another load.
When The Farmer was young, he was one of the kids the neighboring farmers would call to help hay. Back then, there were no large bales - all small square bales that had to be picked up, thrown on a hay wagon, then loaded into a barn to keep them dry. Some farms still put up square bales. Now, with the loss of willing neighbor kids interested in farming and the hard work it is picking up and stacking the hay in a barn, baleage is a good solution. It isn't ideal but it makes farming with limited labor possible although the purchase of expensive tractors and baling equipment is necessary.
Here are some cute photos from today. These two photos kind of give you an idea of the scale of the hay bales.
These two twins were resting on their mama for at least 40 minutes. Glad I caught them after chores.
Hope you are are all having a good week. Stay warm if possible.