Making hay the old fashioned way

Sheaved oats westbury dec 2015

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IN THESE days of automation and mass production, it’s really nice to see some of the old ways persisting.

At one time, all hay was made in the fashion pictured right but now, due to the manual labour required, only those farmers keen to make high quality chaff use this method.

The oat crop is cut as normal. Along comes a binding machine, gathers the cut oats into bundles (about the size of a good armful) and ties them with string.

The bundles, called ‘sheaves’, are stacked into small piles called ‘stooks’ which are designed to let the air flow through to dry the hay thoroughly.

Once dry, the stooks are picked up and stored in sheds or cut straightaway for chaff using a chaffcutter.

Hay that is cut, dried and stored properly, remains good quality food stuff for years.

Timing of hay cutting is critical in producing chaff of the highest quality. Hay is cut when the grain heads are in a watery ripe stage. This ensures that the majority of the plants nutrients are preserved in the stalk, increasing the palatability of the final product.

Chaff made from stooked hay is reputed to be the highest quality available.

Mike Moores