TWENTY-FIRST

EQUUS - - Eq Tack& Gear -

mis­take could cost you your life,” says Hoff­beck. “Farm­ing was and still is one of the most haz­ardous oc­cu­pa­tions in the United States be­cause of the na­ture of the equip­ment and the fa­tigue of long work­ing hours.”

Still, Hoff­beck re­calls the era with some nos­tal­gia: “Hay­mak­ing in those days was part of the sea­sonal rhythms of the ev­ery­day life of the farmer. To grow up on a farm meant you knew what life was about.t. You were in touch with life, your­self and your fam­ily. Youu worked along­side each oth­erer and you spent more timeme with your fam­ily.”

CEN­TURY HAY

Hay­mak­ing has come a long way since the time when each vil­lage and town raised and cut its own sup­ply by hand. To­day, hay is the third largest agri­cul­tural crop grown in the United States, be­hind corn and soy­beans. Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, 55.7 mil­lion acres of land are used in hay pro­duc­tion, and the to­tal crop ex­ceeds 119 mil­lion tons per year, most of which is used do­mes­ti­cally to feed cat­tle, small live­stock and the horse in­dus­try. And be­yond round and square bales, our choices have been ex­panded to in­clude hay that has been chopped and com­pressed into cubes, pel­lets and other forms.

Th­ese days, hay pro­duc­tion is be­com­ing much more of a science. “For horses, small square bales should have be­tween a 13 to 17 per­cent mois­ture con­tent,” says Mike Rankin, a crop and soils agent with the U Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin. “This“in­sures the hay wo won’t sup­port

m mold growth.” Some farm­ers are adding preser­va­tives to pre­vent mold and bac­te­ria. “Pro­pi­onic acid alone or in some com­bi­na­tion with an­other or­ganic acid such as acetic acid are the most com­mon hay preser­va­tives,” says Rankin. “An or­ganic acid, it works by in­hibit­ing growth of aer­o­bic mi­crobes within the hay, re­duc­ing mi­cro­bial res­pi­ra­tion, ac­cu­mu­la­tion of heat, dry mat­ter loss and re­duc­tions in nutri­tive value.”

And yet, there is still some art to grow­ing hay as well. No mat­ter how ad­vanced the science of grow­ing, cut­ting and har­vest­ing hay, a good crop still comes down to the right bal­ance of rain and sun­shine: “The prob­lem has been, and likely al­ways will be, the weather,” says Rankin.

Hay may not be the most glam­orous of top­ics. “But,” says Hoff­beck, “there is a cer­tain beauty in the com­mon­place. Af­ter the clover has been mowed and the hay har­vested, the plant will grow again. There is a time af­ter the mow­ing when there seems to be noth­ing there---but the roots are grow­ing deep and the plant is still alive b be­neath the sur­face of the gro ground. When you can ta take good care of plan plants and an­i­mals you can take good ca care of peo­ple.”

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