This month Roger Evans tells us about his discovery of the fundamental problem with being tempted to make haylage, and how he unexpectedly ended up in the dog basket.
A lot of my friends around here are beef and sheep farmers. Most of the silage they make is round baled, but if the weather is fairly settled, they will turn the grass a couple of times and wrap it as haylage.
It always looks a lovely feed for cattle and sheep but there doesn’t look much milk in it to me, but nevertheless last year we made some on a field we were renting. It was cut three days before we baled it and we ran the haybob through it twice.
There were about 80 bales of it. A few wrapped bales can be very handy in the summer as you can feed them to cows which are due to calve and young calves that haven’t been turned out. So we open up the first bales and it looks good and smells even better.
In fact, it smells so good that if it were a bit drier I’m sure you could roll it into a cigarette and smoke it. Which may sound an unlikely analogy, but you’d be surprised what they roll into cigarettes around here. The trouble was that however great it smelled, nothing would eat it.
So we’ve got 80 bales looking at us and we’re scratching our heads as to what to do with them. What we do now is put a bale on its end, cut the top open, and tip a bucket of molasses on it, then feed that bale next day. That works fine, it’s all eaten up. There’s an added bonus as well – we know where all the wasps are!
The family has a fair bit of lawn to mow between them so I have a ride-on mower. It’s my mower, I paid for it. Well, okay, the VAT man paid for some of it but neither he nor my farm secretary knows that. The mower needs to last a long time as I couldn’t afford to swap it.
The biggest challenge to its longevity is when my grandsons use it. I go to use it yesterday and it’s been moved. So I inspect it for damage, there’s none. The only thing different is that it now carries a can of male deodorant. So it looks as if we have bred a generation of posers and playboys.
I’ve been writing for Dairy Farmer for quite a long time now. I’ve always been honest with you, I’ve always told you about the good and the bad in my life, but mostly the bad because there’s usually an irony, a funny side to the bad.
So today’s bad news is that I now suffer with a condition called ataxia. Ataxia affects your co-ordination, your balance and your speech. You have to concentrate on all three aspects all the time. Which is especially difficult, because, up to now, they are things that you have taken for granted.
I’m not telling you this because I expect or want any sympathy, it’s just if you meet me and I’m struggling to get about or slurring my words, it’s not just because I’ve been in the pub. There is no cure but there’s plenty worse off in life than me. They reckon there’ll be a cure in five years’ time and I intend to hang on in there until then.
Anyway, one Thursday night I’m showered and changed to go to the pub. Thursday night is farmers’ night, they call it Thirsty Thursday. I go out of the back door and the dog is hanging about waiting to be fed. I usually feed him at bed time but decide to do it now. The dog and dog food live in a sort of outhouse next to the back door, a room that is full of our central heating boiler and all sorts of stuff.
I keep the dog food in a dustbin so he can’t go ‘ad lib’. But the grandsons have dumped their cricket bags next to the dustbin (something grandsons do), and I can’t quite reach it. Instead of moving the bags I try to reach over them, and the dog-feed bag is nearly empty so I have to stretch even more. Then I feel my balance going. I know I’m going to fall over but my main concern in the very dirty floor and my fairly clean trousers. The dog sleeps in one of those big plastic dog ‘baskets’, it offers a soft landing and is marginally cleaner than the floor.
So I end up on my back in the dog basket, and I can’t get out. Well I could roll out but that would get my trousers dirty. Keeping my trousers clean is what got me into this predicament in the first place. The kitchen door is open so I try to shout Ann to pull me out, but she’s got the TV on too loud and she can’t hear me. So I try to phone her on my mobile but there’s no signal (which is about normal around here). So there I am wedged in this plastic dog basket.
I think I was stuck there about 10 minutes. As I lay there it occurred to me that this is how a tortoise must feel when someone puts it on its back. Eventually, I bite the bullet and roll out on to the floor and get my trousers filthy.
I thought it was all quite funny. They thought it was quite funny at the pub when I told them later, and the dog, who witnessed it all, thought it was hilarious!