Yesterday we had 150 bales of good quality silage baled and wrapped by an expert team of 3 men and 3 tractors plus a free-standing bale wrapper. These machines are a miracle and watching them is almost hypnotic. For those who have wondered how all those black plastic cylinders that appear in piles all over Devon and anywhere else with livestock are made, then this video will, I hope, explain it.
The poor weather this year has meant that “getting” the silage has been long delayed. We’ve been watching the sky anxiously, wondering if the quality was going to be worth the expense of cutting, baling and wrapping but, looking at it yesterday as it went in to the stack, I think we have got away with it, and, more importantly, our contractor thought it was good. He has already cut and wrapped more bales than I will see in my lifetime so he ought to know.
According to him,we’ve got away with it largely because it’s old fashioned meadow grass – full of herbs. It’s meant the grass hasn’t died off at the bottom and has kept growing a little. And it isn’t pushed with lots of fertiliser. We just use an application of manure every couple of years and some lime to keep the pH at a good level for the grass. This means it tends to grow more slowly but equally, it stands poor weather conditions better than the super-go-faster, ultra high yielding modern varieties of grass that are pushed with extra fertiliser. We are fortunate that our sheep and goats don’t need super-high levels of protein in their feed like dairy cows - lower protein but good sugar levels are what we need. Our old grass can deliver that.
Last year we suffered in the drought because old grasses don’t cope very well without regular rainfall, but this year of course, they have repaid us. Yet again, I am reminded of what many farmers round here say when we hit a rough patch or season. “What Nature takes one year she’ll give you back the next!” That is so true and the closer you ARE to Nature in your grass varieties and the way you run your farm generally, the truer that seems to be. We are not Organic and I can’t see us ever going down that route, but we do operate on principles of minimal input and consequent REASONABLE output. We don’t expect our land or our animals to bust a gut giving more than is within their power to reasonably give. The consequence is, I think, quiet contented animals and land which gives us what we need when we need it. True balance. It’s enough for us.