A Guide to Growing, Harvesting and Baling Hay
Hay is basically dried vegetation: usually a legume such as alfalfa or clover, or a grass such as timothy or brome. It’s one crop that can be raised with proper care in any part of the country where weeds will grow, and it’s a must for any self-sufficient farmer who keeps livestock.
The choice of plant (or plants) to be grown for hay depends on many factors: climate, availability of water, tonnage needed, type of livestock being fed, etc. Local preferences are usually a good guide. (A detailed study of the characteristics and requirements of forage crops is found in The Stockman’s Handbook by M.E. Ensminger, available for $27.25 from The Interstate, Danville, Illinois, or from MOTHERS Bookshelf. — MOTHER.)
Whatever hay crop you choose can be grown either as part of a farm rotation plan or in a permanent meadow. The former system has the advantage of helping establish uniform soil fertility (particularly if one of the legumes is raised). The latter, however, provides stubble for winter pasture, helps to control erosion, and is particularly suitable for marginal land.
Straw is an agricultural by-product, the dry stalks of cereal plants, after the grain and chaff have been removed. Straw makes up about half of the yield of cereal crops such as barley, oats, rice, rye and wheat. It has many uses, including fuel, livestock bedding and fodder, thatching and basket-making. It is usually gathered and stored in a straw bale, which is a bundle of straw tightly bound with twine or wire. Bales may be square, rectangular, or round, depending on the type of baler used.