Clover for hay

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by mamahen, May 8, 2009.

  1. mamahen

    mamahen Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,997
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    US of A
    Our field was leased for a good many years and was planted each year with either corn or soybeans.

    Fast forward....We dropped the lease and are making our own hay. So last year we plowed & disked and planted around 3 acres with a pasture mix. It was mostly grasses: timothy, rye, fescue and orchard with some red clover.

    So this year we were looking forward to our first "homegrown" field. Welllll, it looks like all red clover!! There are a few sparse pieces of grass, but it's definatly clover.

    Sooo, 4 questions:

    1. How is clover hay? Can mules, cows, goats, horses have that as their staple hay? Would it be too rich?

    2. We have an old NI cutter bar, an old pull behind rake, and a NH 65 baler. Will this work, or do really need to look into a haybine?

    3. How long does clover hay usually take to dry? (Western PA)

    4. Where the heck did the grasses go?! Why all clover?!
     
  2. ericjeeper

    ericjeeper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    940
    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2006
    Location:
    Indiana
    The clover has choked the other grasses out.
    Once you cut it a few times the other grasses should start to come on stronger.
    Clover hay is very "Stemmy"
    My dad always said "It will beat snowballs"
     

  3. GoatsRus

    GoatsRus TMESIS

    Messages:
    1,220
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 6 - Middle TN
    HA ! Ericjeeper....a friend always says, "if they don't like it they can eat a snowball." I had never heard that until he said it..........
     
  4. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    7,154
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    If it has timothu in it it wioll make very good hay. Medium red clo0ver was the number one hay crop in the midwest for about 150 years. Good dairy hay. Farmers with horses liked to seed timothy with it.
    Mamoth clover is mostly used for plow down as is sweet clover. They both get shoulder high, and are mostly big stems. The red clover should be cut while in full bloom before the blosoms start to turn brown. With really sunny breezy days you can bale it the third day. The equipment you have will work fine if it functions like it should. Balers can be a problem. Good idea to give it a test run on some old hay out of a barn just to see if it works ok. Try to get that old man up the road to supervise your opperation until you get it down pat. <>UNK
     
  5. Chixarecute

    Chixarecute Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,008
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    Wisconsin by the UP, eh!
    Clover makes good hay, but like any food change you don't want to do anything too fast. Here on Dh's family farm, they always shied away from clover...becuase it can be hard to dry, & gets moldy/dusty. And if it gets too dry, the leaves (protein) shatter in the field.

    Having said that, we are working some clover (don't ask me what kind) back into our 25 A of fields, along with timothy, orchard, & bromegrass. We've been making small square bales, selling mostly to backyard horse folks, and would like the clover to also help build the soil. These fields were originally too poor to harvest, pastured for many many years, then left to native grasses, so we are trying to rehab the land.
     
  6. Welshmom

    Welshmom Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    854
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2008
    Location:
    South Central WI
    I remember going to a farm auction a few years back, and they were selling a whole barn full of hay from this old, small homestead farm that raised and milked his own jersey cows. Lots of people were looking the hay bales over, but many balked at the fact that the clover hay was black. I mean, it was dark black. Not sooty, not musty or moldy, just dry and black. Someone said that that's normal for clover hay, it often turns black when it's dry. So I bought it for the princely sum of a buck a bale.

    My cows ate it all winter, and they loved it and thrived.

    So don't freak out if it turns dark on you.
     
  7. RosewoodfarmVA

    RosewoodfarmVA Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    698
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2005
    Location:
    Southside Virginia
    We grow lots of clover hay. We always maintain a mixed clover/grass for better hay. The clover makes the hay higher in protein. Straight clover will not cure well as hay because the wet plants tend to mat down together when cut and not cure like grasses will. With mixed grass/clover, you're looking at 5 days drying time with a sickle mower. A haybine will cut that down to 3 in good weather, both because it crimps the stems and also because it throws it down in a loose windrow rather than leaving it flat on the ground like a sickle. We used a sickle for many years until 2 years ago when we bought a haybine. I tell you, I didn't know how good it could get! I'd never go back to a sickle now unless the haybine breaks down and the hay has to get cut NOW.

    Clover is great hay, harder to cure properly (will mold if too much moisture), but more tasty and higher protein levels. For hay selling, clover is not easy to sell, as most people think, first, that "there's a lot of weeds in this hay" "no mam, it's red clover." Also because it does turn dark it's not visually appealing to hay buyers who like the nice green grass. But animal tests (years of feeding) confirm that most any animal will love your clover and will more than likely prefer it over grass.
     
  8. Stephen in SOKY

    Stephen in SOKY Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,341
    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2006
    Location:
    Kentucky
    I remember that if we waited even one day longer than when clover hay was ready to bale it was the dustiest thing I've ever seen. Pure misery to handle. Also, even a slight mold on the hay will cause a horse to slobber pretty bad, at one time I knew the name of the compound that caused the slobber but it eludes me now.

    ETA: Google's a beautiful thing, Slaframine is the compound in clover causing slobbers in horses.
     
  9. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    12,042
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Michigan (U.P.)
    Seems sort of obvious to me. The clover leaves will dry in a day or two of hot sunny weather in the mid-west (Michigan). The stems will dry in 2 1/2 to 3 hot dry days. By the time the stems are dry, the leaves crumble and fall off when raked, when pulled into the baler, when stacked on the wagon, when thrown onto the hay elevator and when stacked in the barn.
    Hay that is baled when the leaves are not over dry will have enough moisture in the stems to cause mold. Sometime hay with a bit too much moisture, heats up and combusts. Common way to loose a barn.
    So, it seems that we need a way to get the leaves to not dry quickly or a way to get the stems to dry faster. A haybine helps by crushing the stems. In ideal conditions, a mower will make good hay.
     
  10. freegal

    freegal Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,159
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    The clover is the first to grow. The grasses should emerge among the clover shortly.

    We bought clover bales one winter for our sheep & goats. They loved it and thrived on it. Expect looser stools until they adjust to it though.
     
  11. Lazy J

    Lazy J Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    2,801
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Alfalfa is a much better crop for hay compared to clover. The advances in improvements in stem size, regrowth, and survivability are have made it the Queen of Forages. The thick stem of the clover makes it tough to dry, and it does not recover from cutting fast enough compared to alfalfa.

    Jim
     
  12. geo in mi

    geo in mi Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    5,912
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2008
    We always baled clover hay on our farm in Indiana. It was the cheapest seed you could get, and it always made a good stand(germinated) in the current year's wheat crop. It was critical in the four year rotation plan to get a stand of clover for the dairy cows. Wheat, hay, corn, beans, back to wheat. The wheat stubble made a good nurse cover for the summertime, then the clover came on like gangbusters the next Spring. Timing, care, and weather are all critical, though. Seems to me quarter bloom was the right time to cut--weather permitting, and windrowing was done twice--one time the day after mowing, to turn it over to get the wet side up, then, once again the morning of the baling, but after ten AM when the dew was off. That second windrow was just 'tagged' with the end of the rake so it would just turn once--not rolled over and over so as to shatter the tender and somewhat dry leaves. If you were skilled, you could rake in opposite directions to make two into one so the baler didn't have to make too many trips. It was 'ready' to bale when you could twist the lower stems and no juice ran out--just wilted stems. I think there's an art to that--but if it looked like the rain would come that afternoon, Dad just had to 'pronounce' it dry enough and take his chances.

    One of my most hated jobs was to be the grasshopper boy--that was sitting back on the seat of the John Deere Big No. Four --converted horse drawn mower. The insects jumped up from the blade and swarmed around my head and arms. I had to ride the foot pedal to raise the mower over the rocks, and if the sickle blade clogged up, I had to get off and clear it. Please be very careful around those things--never get in a hurry. You can lose a finger in an instant. Also, watch out for snakes and bees.........

    We always hired a custom baler, so I don't know much about baler mechanics--but ask me anything about hooking and stacking in third gear on the wagon bumping and rolling along on the sparse hilly parts. I was thankful my Dad always insisted on loose--50 lb bales. Slightly more to have to pay to the baler man, but much easier to handle and less likely to mold or ignite once in the haymow.

    "The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance, through the fields I used to roam. When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash, then I long for my Indiana home."
     
  13. clovis

    clovis Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    9,511
    Joined:
    May 13, 2002
    Being a native Hoosier, that is a song that runs deep in my soul.

    Just a few short weeks, and I will get to hear it sung, to 400,000 race fans in attendance, and millions worldwide. Hearing the Indiana state song every May at the Indianapolis 500 may be my favorite minute of the entire year.

    Clove
     
  14. RosewoodfarmVA

    RosewoodfarmVA Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    698
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2005
    Location:
    Southside Virginia
    Yes it's true if you wait long enough for the stalks to dry, the leaves will shatter off if you rake and bale too late. This is why you wait until the stalks are dry (4days moreorless), then early in the morning while the dew is still down, you rake the hay up. The leaves will not fall off because the plants are damp from dew. Then that afternoon you can bale from that row, and the leaves will stay in the hay. I've baled lots of clover hay with so many leaves you can't even see the stalks hardly, but you have to keep close watch on the moisture and rake and bale exactly when it's ready, not waiting until it's been sun dried to a crisp! This is one reason why I like clover and grass mixed, the grasses will help prevent the clover from losing too many leaves during raking and baling.
     
  15. motdaugrnds

    motdaugrnds II Corinthians 5:7

    Messages:
    9,262
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2002
    Location:
    Virginia
    Clover can be helpful (adds nitrogen to your soil); but it can also cause problems when trying to bail. The drying time is different than for quality grasses and it turns "dusty" too easily, causing some animals to sneeze while eating it. Clover does, however, fill in empty spots in your field as it is somewhat agressive.

    I prefer a lespedeza "lightly" sowed amongs my grasses. It is rich in nutrients and enjoyed by most animals. (I also like the lespedaza bushes spotted around. These can form an impenatrable hedge where a fence might be difficult to erect and are nutritious as well.)
     
  16. Jennifer L.

    Jennifer L. Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    4,888
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    New York bordering Ontario
    There are clover years and years when you hardly see any at all. Then another year will come where you have a field full of it again.

    Makes good hay, can be hard to get dry, but I wouldn't be extremely concerned about it as it is not there every year.

    Jennifer
     
  17. fantasymaker

    fantasymaker Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,787
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Location:
    IL, right smack dab in the middle
    Nobody has metioned that clover is a abortative. I think red clover is the worse. Personally I dont want it on the farm ,hard to make good hay with it and after all I want my stock to reproduce.
     
  18. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    12,042
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Michigan (U.P.)
    There are many different types of clover. Medium Red is common here. Birdsfoot trefoil grows well on wet or land with a low ph. Alsack can fill in wet spots, too.
    Birdsfoot trefoil tends to grow in clumps and then bunch up when raked leaving a gob of wet hay. Horses eat it in baled hay but graze around it in the field.
     
  19. RonM

    RonM Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,108
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    We used to grow scarlet clover and barley for hay, my grandfather always told me never to give clover hay to horses???? So I never did...
     
  20. RosewoodfarmVA

    RosewoodfarmVA Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    698
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2005
    Location:
    Southside Virginia
    Never had reproductive problems with clover. Goats were fed high clover hay all winter, and have been popping out twins all spring! :) It makes some of the best hay around if baled properly.