It matters what your food eats.
Well winter is finally here...with a vengeance. Green pastures have faded into a dim memory, and all of our ruminants (beef and dairy animals and sheep) are settled into their winter diet of 'baleage'. We spent much of our time and energy in the green season mowing, raking, baling and wrapping about 1,300 round bales. It occurred to us that many of you may not know much about this important component of what your food eats.
We choose to 'ensile' most of our best hay. Ensiling is baling it at a high moisture content that would allow the hay to rot in the presence of air. To get around this, we push our bales through an ingenious wrapping contraption...it hermetically seals the bales so the sugars in the hay can ferment anaerobically (without air.) Have any of you ever made sauerkraut? Same principle. We end up with high moisture hay that is far superior to most dry hay. The most nutritive part of hay are the grass/clover leaves... the problem with baling dry hay is that the raking and baling process shatters the fragile dry leaves and much of the precious sugar, fats, and proteins in the hay ends up blowing out the back of the baler... leaving mostly non-nutritive stems... we call that pine-needle and sawdust hay. By baling the hay wet, we virtually eliminate leaf shatter loss. A tremendous challenge to 100% grassfed farming is getting sufficient energy (sugar) in the hay to balance its high protein levels. The baleage has a remarkable sweet smell that causes the animals to totally forget their manners and get pushy at the feeders. Also, the fermented hay is extremely high in probiotic activity which is an enormous immune system booster to the animals... obviously, healthy animals produce healthy food.
We end up with a fair bit of plastic to deal with by the end of the season but it ends up being fully recycled, and wrapping our round bales allows us to store 5 barns worth of feed outdoors... no barns to build and no barn property taxes to pay on tubes of wrapped bales laying outside on the ground! We think fermented hay is a no-brainer, win/win situation for the farmer, the animals and for our valuable customers and their families. We hope you agree!