Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baling Crabgrass Hay and Coming Up With Grand Plans

I've been working off and on for the last couple of days baling about 45 acres of crabgrass hay.  The more I grow and bale crabgrass, the more I like it.  It's been about 60 days since wheat harvest, I have a volunteer stand of crabgrass that is utilizing the fertilizer left from the wheat crop, I don't have much invested in this hay crop besides a little extra fertilizer on about half of this field, and I'm ending up with a decent amount of hay. 

If I applied a lot more fertilizer and/or got more aggressive about controlling weeds, I could probably grow a lot more hay or up the quality and protein levels of the hay, but then I'd be moving into an area of more risk and expense.

As a bonus, from what I've seen, the crabgrass residue also seems to be inhibiting the growth of annual ryegrass (which can be tough to control) in the wheat.  I haven't done any double blind, replicated, random, overly-complicated trials on that subject, so apply that idea for controlling ryegrass to your own wheat fields at your own risk.  I've also found that I couldn't get a decent stand of crabgrass until the ryegrass was sort of controlled in my wheat (mainly through later planting and crop canopy).  In other words, crabgrass residue stops ryegrass from growing and ryegrass residue stops crabgrass from growing (that's almost a chicken or the egg conundrum to puzzle over).

For anybody interested in more information about growing crabgrass for either hay or grazing, I'd suggest going to the Noble Foundation's online publication about crabgrass and how they developed an improved crabgrass called 'Red River' Crabgrass.

For those that are interested, I took a couple of photos along the lane I talked about when I was clearing out the fenceline back in April.
Heading South Along the Lane Between Pastures
Looking Back North
Almost Done Baling

I like baling hay on this field because it has nice, straight, long stretches to cut (somewhere around 2100 feet long). I don't know about anyone else, but when I'm a lot more efficient and make quicker work of the job when I'm going in a straight line instead of dealing with a bunch of turns like my typical hay meadows are laid out.  It also gives me a lot more time to plan and scheme for the future when I'm driving the tractor in a straight line. 

I usually come up with a ton of great ideas to save the world, and make the farm much more profitable or easier to run, then almost immediately forget all those ideas as soon as I park the tractor and quit for the day.  But this year, I have the advantage of this blog, so I'm going to actually try to write some of those ideas down, so I won't immediately forget them (I'll just forget them a couple of weeks from now instead).

Growing crops in the summer around here is a hit-or-miss proposition.  Between drought problems and weed pressure, I'm beginning to understand why almost everyone went to continuous wheat about 50 years ago.  

Compared to growing grain sorghum or soybeans, it's easy to grow crabgrass as a double crop with wheat, and when sorghum drops to $3.00-$3.50/bu. it would almost be more profitable to sell hay if I was inclined to sell hay.  I'm still going to beat my head against the wall trying to figure out how to grow grain sorghum and get some respectable yields, but it's nice to have options if I ever decide to stop trying to grow it.

Along that line of thinking, it would be even more profitable to feed that grass to cattle instead of baling it.  

Grazing would also be better for building my soil's fertility. Fertilizing, rotational grazing, then mowing to clip seed heads and control any weeds might help build my soil's fertility (by creating a layer of mulch, etc.). That particular idea might just help justify buying a bat-wing mower which I've been contemplating for awhile.

If I'm going to graze my crabgrass, it might be better to graze stockers instead of cows and calves, so if I had both a fall-calving herd and a spring-calving herd I could graze those weaned fall calves on that crabgrass.  

If I moved some of the cows to a fall-calving season, I might only need one bull instead of two bulls. Although having two bulls is a bit of an insurance policy if something happens to one of them on the job.  

If I only need one bull, I could replace bulls more often and could improve my herd's genetics a little quicker Saving replacement heifers might or might not be a headache with only one bull.

By adding a fall-calving season, I could wait to breed replacement heifers so that they calve at 30 months old instead of 24 months old  (I'm not entirely convinced about that idea and I would probably still need two bulls).

As you can see from my almost rambling statements, I came up with a few ideas about changing a lot of stuff around the farm while baling this hay, I'm not sure if any of it will ever see the light of day, but at least I didn't forget it all as quickly as I usually do.


  1. Over the years I've been asked many times how I can spend an entire day on a tractor without a radio and not go insane or at least become extremely bored. It has never been a problem because like you, I do my best thinking on a tractor. Although back then, we didn't have the technology, these days I think I would take to carrying around a little flash recording device where I could verbalize my thoughts into files that I can later download. Sitting here years later I realize how much thought 'gold' has slipped through the cracks back then.

    1. I don't know if I've ever been bored or been close to going insane while driving a tractor, but I have been "mad at the entire world" when everything seems to be going wrong (and some of those angrier moments have been while I'm trying to bale hay).

      But when everything is going sort of right, it's a whole lot easier to ponder and thinkerize on a wide range of subjects.

      I wonder how people think about whatever they need to think about if they don't have a tractor, a deer stand, or something similar to do their thinking?

  2. I think they don't have places to think and that is the problem!