All 10 000 of them.
Winter is coming! (Why can't I say that any more, unless it's in a British accent? Maybe it's something I've seen on TV? Who knows?) Anyways, it would be ridiculous to think that I'm going to get all of those items crossed off before winter, but certain ones seem to work their way to the top. Feeding the world seems to always be pretty high on that list. It turn, making sure our cows get fed is a priority.
Our cows have two different items on their menu, hay bales and silage. Hay bales are pretty much exactly what they sound like. Cut the hay, dry it, roll it into 1300 pound bales and store it until it's time to feed it the cows. This process happens over about a week, so feasibly, it could be done by one person. Silage on the other hand is much more labour intensive, and requires quite a bit more man-power and equipment.
So why do we make silage? Cause my Daddy always said, "It's hard to make good hay, but it's harder to make poor silage." The thing about bales is you need the weather to be on your side. Which wasn't really the case here over the summer. The more rain you get on your hay between cutting it, and it dries enough to bale, the poorer the quality will be. Bale it before it's dry, it will spoil in the bale and turn into manure. Try to store good bales too long, they lose their feed value. So while they can be made easier than silage, it's safer not to put all of your eggs in that basket.
When we make silage we cut the hay, same as with baling, but before it dries, we come along with the silage chopper, which chops all the hay into pieces about an inch long or less, and blows all of that product into a wagon we pull behind the chopper. Get it, tractor, chopper, wagon. Three units, plus the tractor and hay cutter that have gone before. When the wagon is full, we dump that into one of two trucks that are running trips back to the yard and dumping the chopped silage into a giant pile on the ground, with dirt banks on each side. It's then pushed up by yet another tractor, and packed as much as it can be to squeeze as much of the air out if it as possible. So, 8 different pieces of equipment, and 5 different people to run all of that. A little more than baling.
|If only there was some way show you what I'm talking about?|
Bored to tears yet? Ya, I thought you might be.
The final step in the procedure it to cover the whole pit full of silage, about 1300 tons, with poly, so it doesn't spoil. If the poly remains intact, it can keep in good condition for up to 7 years.
It's sort of like covering that plate of left-overs with plastic wrap and putting it in the fridge to save for a later date. maybe, say.....7 years from now? Except, my plastic wrap is 350 feet long and 50 feet wide.
Surprisingly, now that I think about it, I find it quite a bit easier to deal with plastic wrap on that scale, than I do with covering my left-overs. That stuff always ends up in a wad that sticks to everything except where I want it to be. It's only slightly less irritating than trying to match a lid to one the 500 plastic containers we have in the drawer, none of which are quite the same shape, and requires it's own specific lid. I usually end up with my food in a plastic container, covered with a ragged chunk of plastic wrap, held in place with a rubber band.
I've heard, from one of my neighbours, that there's a way to extract the alcohol from silage, and come up with a drinkable product. It seems possible, as a pit of silage can ooze syrupy liquid all through the winter, and will only freeze when it gets around minus 30 degrees Celsius. While interesting, I've never been desperate enough to get down on my hands and knees and try to suck up a little silage juice. Or maybe whip up a thick brown cocktail to enjoy in the evening. There's no amount of tiny colourful umbrellas that will make that shit appealing.
..........however, maybe that's why my cows like it so much? I've never actually seen them hugging on each other and try to sing though. I may have to pay more attention.