The fine art of making hay in the rain: swath grazing

By Andru McCracken


cow robson valley mcbride dunster valemount slaughter farm gate
RMG File Photo 2019

Thanks to a miserably wet summer and a lack of good haying weather, farmers Seiji and Catherine Hiroe weren’t able to get all their hay off this year, and so, by necessity and not choice, they’re experimenting with a new way of feeding their cattle. It’s called swath grazing.

The couple have been at it for just ten days but it’s promising so far.

“It’s been working,” said Catherine.

Catherine said leaving the hay on the field saves fuel and time both ways, baling and storing hay bales and also bringing manure back out to the field.

Instead of bringing hay to the cows, the cows go to the hay.

It’s an elegant solution, but not without work. Seiji said they have been working at setting up electric fences to ensure cattle are eating the cut hay. If it were up to them, they’d have hay bales or wander off in search of fresh grass.

Catherine said it seems like roughly the same amount of work but costs less. “It’s kind of six of one,” she said.

“Apparently once there is six or eight inches of snow on these windrows, as long as you kind of get them started (by exposing the end of a windrow) and they’ll carry on,” she said.

“We didn’t plan this at the beginning of the season,” said Seiji. “We just couldn’t get the hay dried.”

Catherine said that some folks did get all their hay up.

“If the season were ideal, we’d be finished by July 20, but the last day we baled we celebrated by going down to Abernathy’s for supper, someone else there had also just finished their last day of baling. It was Thanksgiving weekend.”

Seiji has been farming for 40 years and he’d never heard of swath grazing, but when it was mentioned by a family friend, he thought he’d give it a go and researched it online.

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