It's February 1st, we are well into 2020 and ready to go! Even though it's cold out and everything seems dormant, there is much activity on the Jamison Family Farm. Haying will soon be upon us. Spring will come fast and we are working hard in advance to make First Quality Hay.
We have fertilizer on order and will take delivery of it late this month. Today, I picked up some surfactant - which, in simple terms, is mixed with herbicides to help it stick to the weed leafs, penetrate their waxy coating and enable a more effective kill such that we can have weed free hay to the extent possible. We are going to rebuild or replace our present sprayer - as the tank is small and beginning to crack. The boom length is perfect for our rolling fields (20 foot spread) and so it is possible we might build our own sprayer frame, acquire a new/larger tank and adapt the booms, pump and controls from our old sprayer to it. One of the things we are very keen on with respect to spraying is drift. We are mindful of temperature inversions and use air induction type nozzles that are designed to effectively deliver the herbicide from the sprayer to the plant with minimal drift. We are also judicious with our herbicide selection. We rotate year to year between herbicide types to help prevent the weeds from becoming resistant to any one herbicide. None of the herbicides we use have a residual that carries over to our hay, to your animals, into their manure, that if not disposed correctly, could wipe out someone's garden or flowers if recycled as fertilizer.
On the Jamison Family Farm, we have some beautiful hay fields, however, some of the timothy on these fields is getting aged. When I say aged, I don't mean 15 or 20 years old, but more like three to five years old. Our farm is situated on the southern edge of where one can grow timothy, so between the heat, occasional drought and competing pressure from a legacy seed bed of grasses, the timothy begins to die off. Were we not in the Virginia mountains, I'm not sure timothy would work as well for us as it has.
I'm told that a "pure" stand of any grass is considered, worse case, an 80/20 percent ratio; 80 percent timothy and 20 percent other grasses for us. Once the mix grows beyond that ratio, we call it a timothy mixed grass hay. If managed correctly, this mixed grass still makes for very good horse quality hay. Some customers want straight timothy, others don't care; they desire a good quality, weed free hay and a timothy mixed grass hay is perfect. Timothy or mixed, we forage test all of it. The down side of a naturally occurring mixed grass hay is not the quality, but quantity. Just because the timothy is dying doesn't mean another grass will automatically take it's spot and you find the density of the stand lower and lower each year. We are in the hay business to produce as much hay as possible and in as much as we are moving our equipment across the field anyway, why not maximize yield to the extent reasonably possible. To slow the deterioration of the timothy, we over-seed in the fall to reinforce our stand, but at some point you have to start over.
Teff is an Ethiopian grain that has made it's way into the United States as a forage crop. It is a fine stemmed grass that is an annual - you have to plant it every year. As we rotate out a failing timothy field or bring on a new hay field that we've taken back from old pasture, we plant teff to realize revenue off that field until we can replant it in timothy. Some of you may know the qualities of teff, others may not. Teff is an excellent horse hay; it is on par with timothy and is a low carbohydrate hay. It is fast growing, requires lower inputs, but yields very well. For the hay producer, it is a love/hate relationship. Teff will not tolerate any frost and lodges easily. As previously mentioned, teff has to be replanted every year. When cut, one has to be careful as when you think it's dry and ready to bale - it is a good idea to wait another day as teff seems to rehydrate to some extent. When Teff clicks, it is the haymaker's dream. When it doesn't, it is the haymaker's nightmare. In 2020, we will be planting teff on at least one of our main fields and on the "10" in advance of starting over with straight timothy.
In addition to some tractor and equipment maintenance, we are going to add at least two more kicker hay wagons. With our new barn, we have the space to park loaded kicker wagons of hay, up to 10 wagons, before the barn fills. This storage capacity and additional wagon count plays into First Quality Hay. We can now put more hay on the ground at a time, when the hay is at it's highest quality, get it into square bales, quickly off the field and into the barn - safely out of the weather. We have several running gears with rotted decks that are available for these new kicker wagons.
As many of you know, there is a hay shortage. We sold out on January 1st. Prices are high, if you can find hay at all. We get emails and phone calls looking for hay every few days. I think if we had another 1,000 bales, they would sell easily between now and Spring. We appreciate all who have bought hay from us, look forward to your repeat business and hope other potential customers would consider our hay for 2020.
Finally - in anticipation of haying come this Spring, May the Hay Dog is working hard to undo her winter fat. She is undergoing rigorous exercise so she can chase out any intruders (real or imaginary) that might otherwise compromise First Quality Hay.
Take care and we'll talk again soon! The Jamison Family
Disclaimer: This blog entry and all others are checked and edited by May the Hay Dog - woof!