By: Brooke Engelman, dairy farmer from Diller, Neb.
Last week I mentioned we were busy putting up our haylage. It is quite a process that takes a lot of people and different machines.
The first step is to swath the alfalfa. The swather goes to the field first and cuts the alfalfa.
Shortly after the swather goes through, we rake the hay. The rake brings two of the winrows together to make one larger one. It also rolls the hay over so that it all can dry a little. Haylage is best at 65% moisture.
The next step is to chop the hay. The silage choppers come through and pick up the winrows. Their machines cut it up into smaller pieces. This makes it easier for the cows to digest.
The choppers shoot the hay into trucks. The trucks then take it to our feed center where we make a pile. We have a scale there so that we can weigh every load. The trucks dump the hay at the bottom of the pile. We put a scoop of corn on every load to add starch that helps in the fermenting process. Then we use four-wheel drive tractors with blades on the front to push the hay up the pile and pack it down. The pile needs to be packed tight to get all of the oxygen out.
When the pile is done and has a nice crown on it, we cover it with two layers of plastic. The first one is an oxygen barrier and the top one is to keep water out and reflect the sun. We use all nylon truck tire sidewalls as weight to hold the plastic down. They are all tied together so that none of them blow away.
We feed our haylage at about half rate for the first three weeks while it ferments. This pile of haylage should last us 13 months, and by then we will have a new pile ready to feed.
We chopped 500 acres of our own hay, and a little over 500 acres that we bought from neighbors. We used two local custom chopping crews, and managed to get this all done in about four days. This is a big project for us and it sure feels good to have it done!