Rawlinshaw Farm|Zwartble and Blue Texel Sheep|DIY Livery

It's Harvest Time!

In June every year, many farmers are busy harvesting their grass crops.
Following lambing time, the young lambs and their mothers graze the fresh spring meadow grass. Then they are moved out of these meadows and the grass is allowed to grow. 
When the grass is a sufficient height and thickness, dependent on what animal species you are feeding, the grass crop is harvested. 
Cattle require rich, lush grass,especially if they are to produce milk, sheep and horses require less lush more fibrous grass.
Then it all depends on the weather!
Farmers making grass for cows may cut the grass and collect this after 24hrs and put this into a "clamp" - a big pile of grass. Others make "Big Bales" This again can be collected after 12-24hrs, however here at Rawlinshaw we try to leave our grass down to dry for at least 3 days. This results in haylege, which is dryer, with fewer sugars that is better for our horses.

Many of you will have seen farmers happily going about collecting their grass - but do you know what is involved?

First we move the stock out of the fields, repair any fallen down walls and collect any stones or branches that may have fallen into the field as these can all damage the mower when it comes to cut the grass. As the grass grows, we can spread slurry ( a natural fertiliser of cow faeces and urine) and or a compound fertiliser to help feed the grass, just like feeding your flowers. At this point we don't spread the muck from the horses as this contains too much straw which wouldn't have time to degrade before it is time to make to haylege.
When the grass is sufficiently grown and the weather forcast is right - suddenly all the farmers can be seen mowing!

  1. Mowing
  2. Mowing
  1. 1st Scale Out
    1st Scale Out
  2. Scaling Out
    Scaling Out
  3. Sam scaling Out
    Sam scaling Out
  4. Turning over the green grass
    Turning over the green grass
Once the grass is mown, it has to be "Scaled Out" using a scaling out machine or Tedder. This spreads the grass out of the mowed rows, spreading it evenly so it can dry. At first the grass is wet and heavy and our old machine can only spread this slowly or else we get big lumps of grass that won't dry. Each field can take two hours to scale out. This is repeated at least twice a day depending on how quickly the grass on top is drying, so that the wet grass underneth is brought to the top to dry. 

The Race is on!

Once we feel the grass is dry enough, it's time to bale! A machine pulls all the grass into rows and then the baling machine packs this grass into a big bale, layering the grass a bit like thread on a cotton reel, as it goes along the rows of grass. It wraps a net of plastic around the bale to hold it all together and then spits out the finished bale.
Did you know how crucial the weather is to making haylege or silage?

Initially some rain on newly mown grass is not a problem, as it will dry but if your grass is almost hay and gets wet, it absorbs this water and  this can be catastrophic! It means your crop will now be dusty or mouldy which is extreemly bad, especially for horses!
  1. Rowing Up
    Rowing Up
  2. Baling
The race against the weather is crucial! Ideally we want the grass to dry but we also don't want it to spoil by risking it getting wet. This year, the forcast changed and so to prevent our grass from getting wet, we had to bale sooner than normal. This means the grass will be more like silage than haylege but it wont be dusty or mouldy. 

Then we collect the bales together

We move the bales closer together, so it is easier and quicker for the wrapper to collect and wrap the bales.
Rawlinshaw Farm, Austwick, 
In the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park
Do you know why we wrap the bales?

The sugars within the grass ferment, changing the grass to silage. If oxygen gets into the bale, this process is altered and allows mould to grow. Even a tiny pinprick hole can seriously damage the bale and make it unedible and even dangerous to feed to sheep or horses due to Listeria.

Then it's time to wrap those bales!

A special machine picks up the bale, and wraps the platic layers around the bale to seal in the grass. Between 4 to 8 layers can be placed. This is a very noisy process! Take a look at the videos and watch the wrapping process.

Then the bales are dropped down to the ground ready to be moved and stored.
  1. Bales lined up ready to be wrapped
    Bales lined up ready to be wrapped
  2. The wrapper picks up the bale
    The wrapper picks up the bale
  3. The wrapper moves forward
    The wrapper moves forward
  4. The bale is then wrapped
    The bale is then wrapped
  5. Then the bale is tipped off the wrapper
    Then the bale is tipped off the wrapper
Why are bales now covered in different coloured wrap?

Traditionally bales were black, green or white. Some say the different colours affect the way the bales heats up. The gold wrap is less pourous thus hopefully making a better product. However recently, its been more about raising funds for charity. Pink wrap makers donated to breast cancer and now purple wrap is donating to a child charity.

Then we have to move and stack the bales.

Once the bales are stacked up, we cover them in netting. This prevents birds from pecking through the wrap to get to the grass which they use to nest build. Any little peck through the bale wrap will make it go off meaning that we can nolonger feed the bale.
  1. Bales all netted up
    Bales all netted up
  2. Bales stacked ready for winter
    Bales stacked ready for winter
We hope you have enjoyed learning about harvest time and what is involved in making our big bale crop.