From the Farm: December, 2001
Hay season is here and I am going to go over a few hay feeding and handling techniques that we use on the Noble Research Institute Research and Demonstration Farms. We consider these techniques to be time and money saving ways of handling hay.
First, I would like to start out with the hay lane method. Preparation for the winter hay-feeding season starts in the early spring. We try to pick a spot that has poor ground cover or maybe some erosion that we would like to stop. With that in mind and the spot located, we start moving hay into the area as it is baled during the growing season. Our goal is to handle the hay only one time during the year. Once the hay has been hauled to the feeding area, we stack the 5x6 bales on 15 to 18 foot centers, five to six bales wide, depending on the number of cattle to be fed. After stacking, we fence the hay out with a single hot wire and wait for feeding season.
Feeding season is here and it is time to prepare the hay lane for feeding. We start by taking the end of the hot wire down at one or both ends, putting hot wire gate handles on each end, and putting it back up between the first five bales and the next five. We then rack the hay and it is ready for the cows. After each row of bales is consumed, we move the hot wire and hay rings, and another five bales are ready. This eliminates having to use the tractor on cold winter days, hauling the hay a second time, and cutting the strings when you can't feel your fingers. Everyone hates cutting strings on those kind of days when you just can't seem to finish fast enough. If bad weather is forecast, we cut strings on 10 or 15 bales on a pretty day to have them ready. Then, all we have to do is move the hay rings during the bad weather.
Some of the down sides of having a hay lane is bogging during a lot of rain and in icy conditions. Moving the end of the lane as the hay is being fed, so that the cattle do not have to travel the whole distance to get to the hay, can aid in reducing bogging. Or, in the case of a dead fence, cattle gain access to the whole lane, creating a mess. Generally cattle can be caught before too much damage has occurred.