Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Haying in the Cariboo heat – starting early and working later

While the sun shines make hay, so the trite saying goes

By David Zirnhelt

Ranch Musings

Haying time is one of the busiest times. While the sun shines make hay, so the trite saying goes. That kernel of truth drives us in this heat wave. We have the opportunity to dry our hay well as long as we don’t over dry it.

If we put up haylage (usually bales wrapped in plastic, individually or in a long tube form which will remove the air to permit the non-aerobic fermentation of the forage material), then the biggest concern might well be that the moisture content is too low to create the fermentation.

With several recent rainy summers, we welcome the opportunity to make hay or haylage.

If we have cut too much hay over our capacity to put it into storage bales, then it might be over dry and not be good feed for cows.

However, in this heat wave we can start earlier and work later, sometimes skipping the mid-day heat. And if we have an air-conditioned cab then we can work though the day. If we have older, simpler tractors , then we have to watch the heat effect on the operators.

We always get our hay put up, but sometimes we are working into the fall wondering and worrying about whether we will get the drying time necessary. So many have started early and hope to finish early so we can enjoy a summer with holidays.

Air conditioning and heated cabs are common place and make work more pleasant, although there is a higher cost in the capital investment. Faster haying equipment means we can do more, but again at a higher cost.

We are told by financial analysts and some of our industry leaders that we may have more capital investment than we can show a financial return on, so we do not make the investment.

READ MORE: Groundwater licensing a crisis in the making

This is one way to lower our costs of production. But if we under-produce we may not be able to cover our basic costs, including a living wage to those working in the business.

All of this is to say: it is nice to be able to afford the machinery that overcomes climate challenging heat and cold. It is nicer to not spend more than we make from our production.

In the big view of the agriculture/farming industry, technology and subsidies have permitted us to keep the cost of food down, but requires higher levels of investment on the part of farmers.

Some say this is the “cheap food policy” of governments. The hope is that when food costs go up that people can afford it. But if we are to keep small and medium size farmers in business, they will need more money for their food products.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.