Notes to broadcasters
Information on this topic was requested by DCFRN Participants in Bolivia, Colombia, Guinea, Guyana and Philippines.
1. This item is more likely to be useful in areas with dry seasons than in areas that are humid all year round. You should consider this when deciding whether or not to pass on this information to your farmers.
2. It is suggested that, before using this information, you read the notes at the end of this item concerning related DCFRN items.
3. In this item we have used the word “forage” when talking about animal feed like leaves, grasses, and legumes (wild or cultivated) eaten by farm animals. If this word is unfamiliar to the farmers in your area, please use a word or words that they will understand (e.g. “fodder, “animal feed”, “leafy or grassy plants”, etc.).
1. This item (Item 4) is the first of a series of two items in this Package on the subject of hay. If they are relevant to the farmers you serve, please use these items in the correct sequence.
2. This item (Item 4) could be split into separate items for use on two consecutive programs.
3. For maximum benefit to your audience, you might consider using this item in association with information from a previous DCFRN item:
“Legumes, Our Best Source Of Protein from Plants — Why and How” — DCFRN Package 5, Item 3. (This item explains why legumes are important protein sources for humans – and animals).
4. Two other DCFRN items with useful information on preserving feed for livestock are:
“Good Cow Feed at the End of the Dry Season” — DCFRN Package 1, Item 3. (This item tells how to make silage, which can be made in areas where the weather is too wet to make hay.)
“A Drying Structure for Groundnuts” — DCFRN Package 8, Item 1A. (Plants dried on this structure provide dried vines for animal feed, as well as dried groundnuts for people to use.)
We at this radio station are part of a world-wide information network that gathers farming information from developing countries all over the world. It’s the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency, Massey-Ferguson and the University of Guelph.
Through this Network we bring you information on ways to increase food supplies for your family, or to sell — ways that other farmers have used successfully.
Today we’ll talk about preparing livestock feed to keep your animals healthy during the dry season.
animals that don’t have enough to eat get thin and become weak. naturally you don’t want this to happen to your animals. One way to prevent it is to make hay. Making hay means cutting forage plants or grass while they are still fresh and good to eat, and drying them in the sun. That’s what hay is — dried grass or forage plant material. After it has been dried, it’s stored in a special way so it can be fed later to your animals when there’s little or no fresh forage for them to eat.
Today we’ll talk about how to make good quality hay for your animals to eat.
Hay that has been dried, and kept dry during storage, will keep well until it’s needed. However, if the hay has not been properly dried, or if it gets damp or wet when it’s being stored, it can easily get mouldy and spoil. If this happens it will not be good for feeding to your animals.
In very moist humid weather hay can be difficult or impossible to dry properly and to keep dry during storage. So if you’ve never made hay before, you should first think about the climate in your area. Is it dry enough to dry and store hay properly? If it is, try making only a small amount the first time.
Here are the things you need if you want to make good hay:
* You need grass or other forage plants that can be cut and dried in the sun.
* You need sharp tools to cut these plants, for example, a sickle, scythe, machete or panga.
* You should also have a strong, light hayfork (pitchfork) for handling and stacking the hay easily.
You can make hay from grasses that grow naturally in your area and from legumes such as stylo (Stylosanthes) or alfalfa (lucerne). If you are planting out a field or plot of land for producing hay, it’s good to plant legumes and grass together because legumes have a lot of protein in them that your animals really need.
The best hay is made from a forage plot or field that hasn’t yet been grazed by animals. You could set aside an area of pasture especially for hay making, and not let animals graze there until after you have harvested and stored the hay.
The best time to harvest legumes for hay is soon after the very first flowers appear on the plants. Grasses for hay should be cut soon after the long stem appears — that’s the central stem that later on would produce the seeds of the grass plant. Hay made from plants that are older than this won’t be as good for feed for your animals, — so cut the
plants soon after they begin to form heads or flowers. That’s when they’re still tender and very nutritious.
When you cut your forage, do it after the dew has dried off in the morning, and keep in mind that after it’s been cut, it should be dried as quickly as possible. It’s best, though, not to let it dry too much, so that it becomes brittle or breaks easily. If it’s too dry the leaves will fall off the stalks, and valuable nutrients will be lost.
Let’s talk now about a very good way to dry hay properly. If you have good weather, — that is, with 2 or 3 days in a row of sunshine and no rain, cut the hay and let it lie for a short time right where you cut it, — until it wilts; — that is, until it gets limp or droopy. Then rake the hay into rows where it can dry out some more. Next you make it into small piles (cocks) about 1 metre (3 feet) high. It may dry quite well in these piles, but if it doesn’t, turn it over once every day, until it’s dry enough to be stored.
If it rains and the hay in your piles gets wet, you must do whatever you can to dry it thoroughly and quickly — otherwise it will rot or get mouldy and be no good at all for your animals to eat. So drying hay extra well after a rainstorm is very, very important.
Here’s how to test your hay to find out whether it’s dry enough to store. Scrape the outside of 5 or 6 of the stalks with your fingernail. If the hay is dry enough to store, you won’t be able to scrape anything soft off the outside of the stalks. But listen to this: if you press a handful of hay against your cheek and it feels cool or if it’s a bit moist and tough when you twist it, the hay is not yet dry enough.
Now if you are in an area where you don’t have good drying weather, but you have a long fence near where the hay is growing, you could hang the hay over the fence to dry. A better way might be to try using special hay drying structures like farmers use at Kimpese in Zaire.
I’ll tell you how to make a hay drying structure.
If you saw one before the forage was put on it to dry, you might think it looked something like two square or rectangular walls that were standing on the ground parallel to each other — about 2 metres (6 feet) apart. Instead of standing straight up, however, the tops of these two walls are leaning against each other all along the top.
Now, do you have the shape of the structure in your mind? Two walls, leaning against each other, about 2 metres (6 feet) apart at the bottom. — That’s the shape of the hay drying structure. That’s only the shape of it. But instead of two
solid walls leaning against each other, let’s just think of two square frames leaning against each other. These frames could be about 2 metres (6 feet) square and made of good strong poles. Both frames have two more strong poles attached to them horizontally (parallel to the ground), like rungs of a very wide ladder. The lower one is about 60 centimetres (2 feet) above the ground and the upper one is 60 centimetres (2 feet) above it.
Now, there are three more things to remember about this hay drying structure.
First: Your hay drying structure must be made from good strong poles, at least 10 centimetres (4 inches) or more in diameter.
Second: You must be sure to firmly attack the sturdy frames to each other all along the top where they are leaning against each other. This is so they can’t fall down.
Third: To make the structure more steady, it’s a good idea to brace or prop it at both ends with good strong poles.
Now, after you set up a hay drying structure like this, right in the field, — cut your forage in the morning; let it wilt for a couple of hours, then turn it over to wilt for a couple
more hours, — and then after that, put the wilted forage on the structure in a special way. Here’s how to do that:
Start by hanging the forage over the lower horizontal poles first — just like you would hang it on a fence. After those two piles have as much wilted forage over them as possible, then hang more of it over the piles that are above them; — and finally put more wilted forage on the top of the structure.
Now, see what you have — two walls of hay leaning against each other at the top with space underneath the hay where the air can circulate through the structure and dry out the hay.
You can leave your hay there as long as you wish, — until you have more time to move it to where you will later be feeding it to your animals. Even if it rains, most of the rain will run off the hay and it won’t be damaged.
Serving “Agriculture, the Basic Industry”, this is George Atkins.
Information Sources for Items 4 and 5
1. Suelo Productivo (“Productive Soil” — in Spanish only) published by Accion Cultural Popular, Apartado Aereo 7170, Bogota, Colombia, sent by DCFRN Participant, Dr. Jose A. Rodriquez.
2. Crop Production, Unit 12 of Modern Agriculture Series, Schools Agriculture Panel, Ministry of Education, Mbabane, Swaziland.
3. People’s Workbook, published by the Environmental and Development Agency (EDA), Box 62054, Marshalltown, 2107 Johannesburg, South Africa.
4. World Neighbours in Action, Volume 10, No. 3E, “Livestock Feed for All Seasons”, and “Hay Making”, a transcript (illustrated) of a World Neighbours filmstrip. These are both available from World Neighbours, 5116 N. Portland Ave., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73112, U.S.A.
5. An Introduction to Animal Husbandry in the Tropics (Third Edition 1978), by G. Williamson and W.J.A. Payne. This book is part of the Tropical Agriculture Series published by Longman Group Ltd., Longman House, Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex, England.
6. Potential of the World’s Forages for Ruminant Animal Production, Winrock Report (1977), available from Technical and Information Services, Winrock International, Route 3, Morrilton, Arkansas 72110, U.S.A.
7. “The Production, Storage and Feeding of Herbaceous Forages to Support Ruminant Livestock in Developing Countries of the Tropics and Subtropics”, Agriculture Technology for Developing countries, Technical Series Bulletin No. 27, Office of Agriculture, Bureau for Science and Technology, Agency for International Development, Washington, D.C. 20523, U.S.A.