I’ve probably said all of this before, but I’m old and allowed to repeat myself. I won’t repeat the stuff about the heat and stickiness of baling, hauling and storing hay and the wonderful scents involved. With this foul weather, I’m thinking more about the feeding of it.
We always had the fattest cows in the neighborhood. That’s not always a good thing, since we had to give up A.I. and go back to the expense and bother of a bull. Cows are hard to time right for the procedure and fat cows are less likely to conceive. Still, Dad hated to see skinny cows, considering it a form of abuse to not feed them better. I tend to agree. I guess it should come as no surprise then that I always notice the condition of my neighbors’ cows. Some look pretty poor, fed once or twice a day with whatever the owners haul to them in the field. It seems the hay is sometimes cleaned up before the farmer makes it back to his house.
We had a nice barn to feed them in, with a concrete trough. We filled it up at daylight and again near sunset. If we discovered the trough empty through the day, we’d throw them a couple more bales. If the trough was completely empty either morning or evening, we figured we hadn’t given them enough and upped the number of bales we gave them. One of Dad’s favorite things in life was to watch his cattle wad in big mouthfuls of hay. There IS a certain peacefulness to the sight. We were very particular about when we cut and baled hay, so as to get the best-tasting hay we could get for them. As a result, they even thought that the old wild broom sedge we sometimes fed them was wonderful stuff. There were times, though, when we had some less than ideal hay that we needed to use, due to a low supply of better hay. A little salt water or molasses sprinkled over it and they acted like they were eating cotton candy!
A lot of people don’t seem to take as good of care of their stock these days. Two of my neighbor’s have skinny cows and one has fairly fat ones. Nothing would make me happier than to give the skinny ones an ample supply of good hay and watch them enjoy it. It’s not my place to interfere, though, and I couldn’t afford it anyway. However, I’ll always remember our cattle greedily eating the hay before them, and the look of pleasure on Dad’s face as he watched them. © 2015
Click images to enlarge.
Shot of our new barn in 1961. Note the gas tank on the left, the car axle that would later become a small log trailer, and the '47 Plymouth in the drive. Also, notice the elm tree to the left, and the last remaining corner of the old barn. If you look close, you'll see a couple cattle standing near the barn.
Here's the old barn that the new one replaced, circa 1954.