Hay Season

We interrupt fence building to bring you hay season. You’ve heard that phrase “Make hay while the sun shines” well it is probably true most places but it is certainly the way it goes around here. When the hay is ready and the sun is shining you drop everything else you are doing and make hay.

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Hay season is usually around the 4th of July and it is all-consuming because you have to get the hay cut, dried, baled and the bales in the barn before it rains again.  Hay is what our grass-fed beef eat in the winter months, so it is an important part of our operation.

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With our new acreage, we had some of our own grass for hay this year. Our friend Jeff cut it for us, then raked it .

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And baled the hay. I really have no idea how a hay baler works. It looks to me like they drive the tractor pulling the baler over the rows of hay, it rakes up the loose hay and squishes it all together, ties it with twine in two places and spits the bales out the back.

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It is possible there is a more technically correct explanation for the inner workings of a hay baler. I do know everyone I have ever known who has worked with one complains about how hard they are to get adjusted just right. Too tight, too loose or too something.

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Rick and Alex used our tractor and bale handler to gather up the bales in the field and stack them on the trailer.

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They pulled trailer loads to our place to put the hay in the barn for winter.

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The bale handler works to make the hay stacks in the barn too.

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Unlike some places where they get multiple cuttings of hay, here you usually get one per year – two if it is a really good year and you get rain and dry weather at just the right times.  And then we are done with hay for the year and can go back to . . . yep – building more fences.

New Pastures – Part 2

In addition to the fencing for the new grazing paddocks we have to install water troughs. The labor intensive way to water cattle is to drag a hose from place to place and fill up the trough. We have done plenty of that. This time Rick and Alex wanted to put in the labor and time up front to make it more efficient in the long run.

hooking up water line float

So they trenched two very long water lines across both sections of the paddocks and installed water lines. Then they stubbed up a line at each water trough and installed a float which refills the trough automatically as the cattle drink the water down.

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 It s a lot less time-consuming for us – after the system is all set up – and better for the cattle too as they always have a supply of fresh water.

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And then they were back to fencing. Alex is driving T posts.

driving T posts

 When all the brace posts have been cemented in and the T posts driven in and the clips installed, it is time to pull the wire. This wire spool holder keeps the spool in place as they pull the wire down the fence line. You can see the cattle waiting impatiently in the paddock they are ready to move off of behind the spool – but no pressure.

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 Way down at the end of the fence line you can just barely see Karla. She and Larry are the previous owners of the property that is now American Alps Ranch and they were here for a visit. They graciously helped us that day building fence. Karla took the hedge trimmers and did away with a lot of blackberry vines that were creeping into the new pasture. Sorry I didn’t get a better picture of you Karla!

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 Meanwhile Larry and Alex were putting together the pieces of the wire gate.

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The fresh grass in the new paddock.

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The fence is complete, the water trough is set and it is time to move the cattle onto the new pasture.

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The cattle are watching Larry unhook the wire gate.

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And then they are off to the new pasture.

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Out of the old . . . .

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. . . and into the new gate . . .

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. . . and onto the fresh grass.

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Larry closes the gate behind them and we are done – with this paddock anyway.

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New Pasture – Part 1

Back in April we leased an additional 80 acres of new pasture, just across the river from our place. It has been neglected and overgrown and the fencing was not in good shape, but it has lots of potential.  So, the long process of turning this old homestead into great pasture for our cattle began. Rick started by dragging the first 30 acres.

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Dragging the harrow over the field breaks up any manure clumps, loosens the compacted grasses and soil, reduces weeds and encourages new grass growth.

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He dragged the whole field  – which has a lovely view of the snow-capped mountains to the north – then applied 1/2 ton per acre of granulated lime. Our soil is very acidic so adding lime to the soil brings the pH up. The spreader is the yellow funnel-shaped thing on the back of the tractor.

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Next was trenching for the water and electric lines. They covered up the trenches before I got to take any pictures (they are working on a deadline and don’t stop for photo ops), but you can see the bare spots running through the field to each water trough.

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After that came clearing the overgrown vegetation so they could build fences. Some of the overgrowth was so high you could barely see the tractor.

tractor high grass

The trees in the fence line had to be trimmed up so they could work underneath.

tree trimmings

 

There is an old fence in that grass somewhere. Around here if you don’t keep it trimmed it will soon be consumed by vegetation.

existing fence

And then it was time to build fences. Lots and lots of fences. Which required many, many T posts – about 80 per paddock.

t posts

So Rick and Alex pulled strings to lay out the fence lines and started driving T posts.

rick and alex building fence

 

They have also cemented in over eighty wooden corner and brace posts. Luckily the soil in that field is not nearly as rocky as ours, so the auger on the tractor drills the holes for the wood posts pretty well.

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The guys figured out they needed ten individual grazing paddocks of about 2 1/2 to 3 acres each to sustain our herd this summer. We rotate them through so the cattle are always on fresh grass and each rotation lasts about six days – give or take. So they started in one corner and fenced paddock #1 and moved the cattle in.

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Then they had six days before the next paddock had to be ready so the cattle could be moved onto fresh grass. It takes the two of them approximately five days to drill the post holes, cement in the corner and brace posts, drive the T posts, install the clips, pull the wire, hang the gates, set the water trough, hook up the water line and install the float on each paddock – if there are no problems and you have all the materials. So they worked hard to stay one paddock ahead of the cattle.

one ahed of the cattle

And the fencing race was on.

TO BE CONTINUED