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About:

2011

We moved to Wales in July 2011 from Gloucestershire, bringing with us two Blue Cross Rescue horses; Pelotari, Spanish Racehorse and Mafranha, an Anglo Arab Endurance Horse.  Little did we know that the journey we had embarked upon would bring a multitude of experiences and at times very mixed emotions.

This journey would present an opportunity for learning, at times a high level of frustration, stress as we were so beholden to the elements and a huge level of respect for the farming community around us.  These people are faced with a raft of challenges daily.  They have become our unsung heroes.  We have also been moved by the selflessness and the sense of community and support we have received by so many. Our property is set in fourteen acres, with plenty of individual pastures, yet the field the previous owners had used to make hay, had already been baled. Fortunately we had brought a few bales with us, and our intentions were to turn the horses out.That,s when we found out that Hay and Straw wasn't as readily available as in England!  Being totally new to the Smallholder world we had to seek advice on how and what and who could help us make hay. Another factor we noticed, is that most hay being produced locally, was not cut from grass specifically for hay, it was silage grass, small fields, heavily fertilized, had been left to see if the weather would hold long enough to make hay, if not nothing lost, bale it for silage,  Well, this is where it all begins, a neighboring farmer introduced himself, and on first impressions this guy was the Wikipedia of Hay making! He took me into the 5 acre designated field for hay and knelt down placed his hands on the grass and butterflied his arms, well, I was bemused, and wondered if this was a Hay Making, or local ritual! Then in his strong welsh meaningful voice said,The sward is a bit thin, and you will need to over-seed with Italian Rye Grass. Well he could have been speaking in Italian I had no idea what he meant.  To be honest at this stage I thought grass was grass! Over the next few weeks of settling in, I found a local straw supplier and a local farmer who I was able to purchase hay and large bale straw from.  

2012

September came and along with it the RAIN, and before we knew it, it was March 2012.  The advice we had received had been ignored; not intentionally but I don't think it stopped raining all winter!Then a knock came on the front door, it was our friendly farming friend, offering more advice, you need to fertilize your field. He knew I didn't have any machinery and kindly offered to do it for me. What you need is Nitrogen that will make it grow, we probably nodded in agreement and off he went and ferted (a technical term you understand) the field with 34% N.  Sure enough the grass grew, and it grew, then in July he cut, turned and baled our first crop of hay, 472 bales in total, then left. I then realised I had to get them into the barn.  Armed with the builder, who was doing some work on the house, and a small 6'6"x4'x6" Ifor Williams trailer, we started the mammoth task of getting the bales into my barn, well, at 24 bales a load, this took from 2:30pm to 10:15, What a learning curve that little exercise was! Definitely a bigger trailer was needed!!!

2013

April 2013, Saw the arrival of our own Tractor, a Case 885 4wd, and May 2013 saw the arrival of a Vicon fert spinner, and on June the 19th we took delivery of a Khun drum mower, and a HayBob, the only thing we didn't have was a baler, yet we had already sourced a reliable local contractor to do that part of the job. Our trusted oracle again gave his advice freely on fertilizer and the need for an application of slurry.  Being a total newcomer, what I hadn't realised was, slurry doesn't come alone! Docks appeared, and appeared, I was mortified. We had another good crop of hay. And this year we had two small trailers, to retrieve the bales. During the autumn that year I made contact with a local agronomist (Agronomists are scientists who look for ways to increase soil productivity - in other words; to raise more food on the same amount of soil. They also work to improve the quality of seed and the nutritional value of crops). First lesson how do you know what to apply if you don't know what the land is deficient in!  First things first - soil test; the soil test came back with a ph of 5.3, ouch very low which meant that the soil is Acidic - it needed to be closer to 6.5!  A short term fix for me at the time was to add Prilled lime through my fert spinner.

2014 

In the spring we had 3 ton of ground lime per acre spread on our hay field, and on the professional advice from our friendly agronomist we direct drilled in a Special Specific Hay Seed

Hay mix

3.00 kilrea Early Diploid

2.00 Butara 1 Intermediate Diploid

4.00 Boyne Intermediate Diploid

3.00 Tyrella Late Diploid

2.00 Climax Timothy

14.00 kg / acre

A warm spring the grass grew, and on the 14th June we cut a huge crop of grass.  On the 19th June we took off 720 bales.  I then waited about three weeks and spot sprayed the docks again! Even if you get the big fleshy leafs, many will play dead by collapsing and going white, then a little green shoot appears out of the middle, and yes they survived. Persistence is key!  We then had tack sheep to graze down the grass over winter.

2015 

This was a challenging summer, with the weather not holding for long enough to make hay! June and July came, plenty of sun and rain, saw the grass growing well, but sadly as time went on and days got shorter the quality faded.  And then in August a four day window of good weather appeared, and we went for it, we cut hay on the 14/08/2015 and baled on the 18/08/2015, a total of 760 bales.  We were still getting the hay off the field manually but now with more manpower!

2016 

This again was another challenging summer, with the weather not holding for long enough to make hay! As in 2015, June and July came, plenty of sun and rain.  We saw the grass growing well, but once again the quality started to fade.  Mid-August we were presented with a window of good weather its now or never!  So we went for it, we cut hay on the 11th August and baled on the 15th August; a total of 544 bales, and a further 475 bales of meadow hay off a new hay field that we had left. This year we became mechanised, well at least to us.  We purchased a secondhand hay bale conveyor; it was in need of repair but within a few hours it worked a treat.  Also, one of our farmer friends lent us his bale sledge, a flat 8 grab and a bale trailer.  We thought we had it cracked, the contract baler turned up, we managed to adapt the bale sledge to fit his baler, and way he went, this time we had bales in groups of eight dotted around the field, instead of a continual line of single bales, already this was looking easier for picking up, then a slight set back happened, we jumped in the tractor of friends tractor which had the flat8 grab, drove to the first a group of eight bales, which skewed by the headland, picked them up using the grab, went to select reverse gear, and the gearstick snapped inside the gearbox, that was the end of using the grab! We then as we have every year, chucked the bales on the trailer by hand, only this time it was slightly quicker as the bales were conveniently stacked in eights, with the longer trailer which had borrowed, we managed to get a hundred bales on at a time, this was a real bonus, the first three trips, we hand balled the bales off, reaching about six high, then on the fourth trip to the barn, we fired up the Lister Bale Elevator, and away it went, carrying three bales at a time into the eaves of our barn, instantly stacking the bales above six high, got a whole lot easier. One thing I must add, the bale elevator was powered by a 3.5hp petrol Briggs & Stratton Engine, and true to the British engine building, it missed a beat of two every 5 minutes, which keeps you wondering all the time if its going to stop!

(since found out, that this was common, even when brand new) Another first for us, as this year we cleared the field of bales and stacked into the barn, in about 4,1/2 hours.

The hay was of excellent quality and we have already built up a loyal customer base whose animals love our hay!

2017

Another year of developing our self-sufficiency.  One of the challenges that anyone with a small amount of acreage is faced with is waiting for the availability of contractors.  They have their larger clients who will always come first.  Of course this is only natural and we respect this.  However, when weather conditions are such that you are presented with a small window of opportunity to get the hay off the field this could spell disaster. We now have a Jones baler, a Cook bale sledge, a Browns flat8 grab and a purposely-built M4 trailer.  So, yes, for the first time since taking hay off the land we are now able to complete the full process with our own equipment. Myself and my son cut, turned, rowed up and baled, it may not be flashy equipment but it did the job and we felt a huge sense of achievement. We had our hayfield grazed off by sheep during the winter months, we moved them off the field in the first week of March, so as not to overgraze it, I then let it grow on a bit, before on the 22nd April I ferted with 0-24-24 fertilizer, Nutrient Composition: P2O524%, K2O24%, SO34.8%, then I left the grass to grow checking daily as I walked the perimeter daily. The weather went very cold during late April & the early part of May, my initial thoughts and that of many, was the hay was going to be late. As it does in West Wales the weather changed overnight, rain, sun, warm days and the grass started to grow well, I check the weather daily at this time of year, and on the 10th of June the BBC ten day forecast showed a week of sun shine coming, knowing this could change as quickly, I carried on checking, and to my surprise it remained and even showed the good weather to last for even longer! On the morning June 14th we went for it, and cut the hay fields, 51/2 acres of Diploid grass and a 5 acre field of meadow grass, the weather being that good we were able to turn it, at least twice a day, on the third day the diploid grass was making rapidly, on day three the weather was so good that we turned it three times, and it was ready, the meadow hay was a good day behind, this wasn't a concern at this stage, as the weather was holding, on the 18thof June we turned the hay at 10 am, and at 1.o clock we started rowed up and my Son started bailing, this was a worrying time for us, as we had literally just bought the Jones baler, and never had time for a practice run, the baler came full of baling twine, which was a relief, as we had know idea how to thread the twine.. The Jones baler pushed out bale after bale, and the Cook bale sledge gathered the bales and placed them into groups of 8s without fault. Then came the gathering, another new implement to us, and to use, the Browns Flat8 grab, without hesitation my Son started to grab the groups of 8 bales and stack them onto our purpose built M4 hay trailer, well this went like clock work, and we cleared the field much quicker than previous years, a total of 672 bales.. The following day, we repeated the same process again on the meadow hay field, with a total of 478 bales, job done!

We still have about 2.1/2 acres of grass to bale, as it wasn't ready at the time.

Note:

We leave a 4' strip around the headland of our hay field, so that we can walk round the outside to inspect the progress of the grass, we also offer customers to view the grass if required prior to buying their hay, A few of customers have walked the field, and have satisfied themselves, that the grass growing is of good quality, with minimal weed contamination, I believe we have now eradicated all the docks, which were kindly donated with the free slurry in 2013!