I was mentioning to our Hay Guy (Keith Short in Langdon, NH) that Ella Mae produces more and creamier milk on grass than on hay. He said he had just the thing — balage. We knew people fed that to their cows, but didn’t know if the sheep could eat it. When Lisa was talking to Sandy Davis up at American Way Farm about Maggie (our new rescue LGD), Sandy mentioned that she feeds it to her sheep and they love it. So last time Keith was here, he brought a bale of balage, also called haylage. Either way, it’s silage put up in a white plastic marshmallows. It’s not recommended for horses because they are hypersensitive to botulism but it’s ok for sheep as well as cows.
We fed it to the cows and sheep Monday evening. It’s Sunday and they are still content, which is just crazy, and everyone spent much more time chewing their cud this week despite single digit (F) temps. Ella Mae’s production went back up albeit not to as much as when she was on grass. The cream line took a few days to come back, but it’s improving too. She’s now dripping milk in the morning when Lisa goes out to milk her, which hasn’t happened since right after she had Danny.
The geese and ducks are loving it too. They pick at hay, but can’t really eat much, and end up eating a lot of grain in the winter. This week, despite having free-feed access to the grain, they’ve eaten about half of their normal rations. (Oddly, neither the chickens nor the turkeys have discovered it yet.)
On top of that, it costs ten bucks less a bale. We were feeding two bales a week to to the critters with horns, one to the horses, and half to a third to the pigs. So even in the unlikely event that we some day have enough pasture for the summer, that’s a bale a week saved for six months of the year, more with more critters.
Haylage is apparently what Walter Jeffries feeds his pigs in the winter so they are the next to try it. The pigs bed in their hay as well as eat it so we’re unlikely to save much volume. We’ll take the ten bucks though. (The pigs prefer to sleep outside in any weather except an ice storm, no matter how nice a shed we give them.)
The only downside we’ve found is that at least in the cold, our NH TC30 tractor won’t lift the bales. (Weak hydraulics in cold is a known New Holland issue. The company denies it, honest dealers say to waste half an hour’s diesel to warm it up and it will work.) It might then be able to lift it. If so, we’ll have to mount the pond scoop off the three-point hitch in the back and load it with concrete blocks. The dry hay bales are exciting enough with no weight in the rear. Another few hundred pounds would
Still, better fed livestock for less money. Hard to beat.