Winter Hay Here

Hay Bale Grabber

That tractor has what is known as a hay bale grabber on the front lift arms. It is very handy for loading, unloading and stacking the round bales of hay we get each winter. John, the farmer we get our hay from, makes very nice hay. He brings his tractor up when he delivers his hay to make the process go quickly and I appreciate that he is then able to set the bales right where I want them out in the fields. I have my bucket and chain bale moving technique but the hydraulic grabber John has is faster and well appreciated.

This year we received 136 of these 800 lb bales. The pigs love it, chowing down about an average of one bale a day. Last year we experimented with letting the pigs free feed themselves the bales and they did a great job, opening the bales at just the rate they needed which was the same as I would have done myself for them. This saved me time. I just have to pickup the plastic in the spring.

Part way through last winter I reorganized the bales so they were better wind block creating several sheltered places. Again we put them in a bit of a different configuration this year based on what we learned last winter. The pigs tend to sleep out under the stars and open sky, even when it snows, even though they have places under roofs. This year I’m going to setup more roofs – pieces of the old hay shed we tore apart for the butcher shop. These will good temporary winter shelters. Smaller pigs appreciate the shelters more.

During the really wet mud seasons they use a bit more, wasting some into building up a bedding pack. This year we have more pigs now than we had last year too. With that in mind I have ordered more hay. Last year we had 125 round bales and they just barely lasted until spring pastures opened. So in addition to the 11 extra bales we have already bought I have a lead on another 14 round bales from another nearby farmer who’ll deliver in the coming weeks. We’ll also get a few hundred square bales from him. Ideally I would like about 200 bales which gives about a bale per pig per year.

Outdoors: 46째F/40째F Rain all day
Tiny Cottage: 62째F/59째F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to Winter Hay Here

  1. FarmerJeff says:

    Walter, what was your experience getting the bigs to eat the balage? I make nice small square bales but the pigs seem to have no interest. My neighbor, however, makes nice balage and I am considering buying a few in to overwinter some large blacks that I have.

  2. When you say balage what do you mean? The reason I ask is that I've found many people are using different words for the same thing and the same word for different things.

    Sometimes balage is used to refer to corn stalks, sometimes to hay. Sometimes people say haylage for the hay version. What we are getting is the hay version.

    There is a very soggy haylage which is cut and immediately wrapped with full water content. Those bales weigh about 1,600 lbs. We got some once. We don't like them at all. I don't know if they were simply a bad batch or what but they were awful, easily the worst hay we had ever had and a waste of thousands of dollars. They were a wet soggy mass and stunk to high heaven like something had died in each bale. Neither the sheep nor the pigs wanted it. I composted most of it.

    The hay bales shown in the picture above weight 800 lbs each. These are partially dried before wrapping. When opened they have a sweet slightly alcohol smell to them, are delightful to lie down in and the pigs & sheep love this hay. I buy all I can from the farmer who delivers it to us. I would buy more if he had it. I end up having to get some from other sources each year, mostly squares.

    Since all the bales are the same physical size, 4'x4', for the ones we have gotten the weight of the bale is a good indicator of what is in it and the moisture content. The 800 to 1,000 lb bales seem to be the best.

    The other thing I got once was sticky hay. It was full of milk weed, branches, weeds and other junk. This was of no interest to the pigs or sheep. You want good hay ideally with alfalfa, clover, etc. I have found that the second cut is what the pigs favor. In a pinch they'll take almost anything though, better than sheep in that regard.

    The pigs do need to learn to eat hay, just like learning to eat pasture. If they have been on corn/soy or commercial hog feed they may not realize or want to eat the hay. It is more like cereal and the corn/soy hog feed is like candy – great for packing on the pounds but nutritionally questionable.

  3. Mary Ricksen says:

    You mean they would rather be out in the cold under the stars than in a covered building in the snow?
    Wouldn't the hay start to get moldy because it's so wet?
    They actually take the white plastic off by themselves? Smart little devils.

  4. Mary, in our climate for most of the winter the hay is dry out under the sky because it is so cold. It is the muddy seasons on either end of winter that are less pleasant. They do like open sheds, of which we have many[1, 2, 3, 1] but it is important not to close them in or the animals, just like people, have problems with indoor pollution in the form of dust and gases from the deep pack bedding. Typically in nice cold weather they sleep outside of the sheds. I suspect though that if we had a big enough greenhouse with good air flow but also wind block they would like that a lot. We have done small versions. The problem is pigs can be quite destructive. Thus the greenhouse foundation.

  5. Hi Walter,
    This was interesting, as most people around here (ourselves included) do not feed haylage to sheep for fear of listeria. I googled it and found that others are doing it safely. Learn something new every day!

  6. Recently I saw someone mention that but we have been doing it for years and it is baled for dairy cattle so I suspect it is not a problem. One of the things to always keep in mind is that we don't live it a sterile world. When I open a bale I smell it, as part of the process. If a bale smells bad I don't want to put it out which is why I composted a bunch of them one year :( Major pisser.

  7. Dinie Dreyer says:

    I am curious. The layout is a bit small and not that easy to read the map notes on the website:
    Noted you do not have a seperate bacon room – Do the USDA allow you to transport the fresh cut & sliced cured bacon through the RTE section? or do you do time seperation. I am working at a facility in South Africa and we have now been instructed to seperate "cooked = RTE" and "raw pork" completely – although the bacon, parma & pancetta is cured and RTE to eat according to us – the notion expressed is that it is in essence still raw and due to the different microbial risk profile seperation is required? The request is that we should note even transport the raw through the RTE section.

  8. Very good question and very observant, Dinie regarding the butcher shop post. We are going to be doing time separation in addition to space separation where ever possible. Slaughter will be one day, meat cutting another day, cure and smoking a different time. Within the cooler and freezer there are divisions for cooked product on one side and raw product on the other side separated by both the pathway and sliding dividers.

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