This past weekend, the Kennedy’s finished their first cutting of silage. Relief ensued.
I’m not that familiar with silage; this was my first real experience with it (and at a whopping eight months pregnant, my duties were largely delegated to the kitchen). I grew up on a highland cattle farm – quite possibly the most gorgeous type of cattle in the world, if you could ever consider a cow gorgeous. A dairy farm, by comparison, is way different. A dairy farm in Ireland is different yet again.
Back home, we would make hay every summer, and maybe a very small amount of silage, if any. But what’s the difference?
Silage is cut when the grass is still green, heaped in a large pit (or silo) and left to ferment. The cows go crazy for it. On my dad’s farm, we would wait for the hay to get really high and dry out, then we would cut it and shape it into bales. These bales would generally feed the cows all through the winter. Silage will feed the cows through the winter, as well, and we’ll be doing another batch with the second growth of grass, probably in August.
Like hay-making days back home, though, at my father-in-law’s farm lots of people come together to lend a hand during silage and then enjoy a big meal together afterwards. This is kind of old-fashioned, but it’s the way my father-in-law has always done it and he loves the social aspect.
Today, many Irish farmers will hire contractors to come in and cut the silage. These guys are professionals – they’re equipment is well-maintained, break-down’s are rare and they get the job done faster (for a price). It is much easier to hire contractors, but I tend to agree with my father-in-law on this one – the folk helping out and taking part this past weekend were working extremely hard, but had huge smiles on their faces as well. The camaraderie is refreshing.
Since I was in no shape to drive a tractor or throw old tires on top of the pit to keep the plastic sheeting secured (recycling works, people!), I took a few photos of the process.