Friday, January 28, 2022

Aussie Farmers Struggle to Harvest Their Grass

In North East Victoria, Australia farmers have been struggling to cut their grass because there has been too much wet weather and there is not enough time to cut and dry it for silage. 

Silage is a form of cattle feed that is freshly cut grass that dries for a day or two, depending on the weather. This allows farmers to cut and store the grass from the spring when there’s an excess for a time when there’s less, such as winter, for example. During the colder months, there is less sun, decreased temperatures, and frosts, so there isn’t enough grass growth to keep up production levels.

North East Victorian dairy and beef farmer Keenan Whitsed and his father Johnny explain: “Harvesting our grass means that we can keep our production up.”

The grass is cut, raked and bailed, and wrapped in a plastic cover to keep air out so that it can be preserved. Another method is to cut it and fill a big pit or make a big pile and then make it airtight so that air doesn’t spoil the silage. 

Silage is a form of cattle feed that is freshly cut grass that dries for a day or two, depending on the weather.
Silage is a form of cattle feed that is freshly cut grass that dries for a day or two, depending on the weather. (Image: Alicia Hess via Dreamstime)

For farmers, rain means that the grass is growing and that they are making money. Which is a great thing. However, in this situation, it is leaving farmers unable to cut their paddocks that now have grass going to seed. 

If grass goes to seed, much of its goodness is lost

When it goes to seed, it changes and there is less goodness, or vitamins, nutrients, and minerals in it because it has gone into its next cycle. However, it still does contain enough sustenance for the cow to fill their stomachs and produce more milk, and increase their body weight. So not all is lost.

However, there has just recently been a break in the weather, so farmers have started rushing to get the grass cut so that they can bail it up before more rain comes.

farm
For farmers, rain means that the grass is growing and that they are making money. (Image: Alexstork via Dreamstime

“We can only do what we can do and make the most of the weather.” Keenan Whitsed adds. 

What is also strange is that, less than a week away from summer, the farmers haven’t had to irrigate once yet. Normally, irrigation starts in October. There have been two exceptional years for growth in a row, with last year also being exceptional with great rainfall when it was needed for the farmers. 

“I’ve never seen ryegrass this high before in 58 years of farming. It has always just rained when we needed it to,” said Johnny Whitsed.

Global warming was once a hot topic. Except for the farmers of North East Victoria, it has been quite the opposite. It has been cooler for them with increased rainfall and better-growing conditions. 

Like most people, the future remains uncertain for farmers, however, there is an old saying that in Australia about making hay while the sun shines, and for the local farmers, that is exactly what they will be doing when they finally get a few days of dry and sunny weather.

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Adam Fletcher
I grew up on an organic dairy and beef farm at the start of the Murray River in Victoria. Our property is right on the border of NSW, having the border run through our property. Upon completing school, I refused university and instead, metaphorically speaking walked around barefoot for a few years travelling and experiencing all different kinds of things. 4 years ago I broke up with my girlfriend and moved back to the country, where my interest in soils and self cultivation grew.
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