Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Rite of Spring

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: What ancient rite of the seasons is conducted here? Is it some cult that will soon fill this space? It is May 30th. Below cows are being milked, but in early spring this hayloft is empty. Soon the first haying will begin.

If the barn has silos, it's a pretty good guess it was at one time a dairy farm, but having silage did not replace the need for large haylofts. Before the time of silos hay got the cows through the winter, but cow's milk was a seasonal delicacy. My correspondent explains the importance of silage and its relation to hay:

In early farming days before silage, hay and dried grain was the sole means of keeping cattle through winter and off months when there was no green grass. The cattle still produced milk but not very much in comparison to cattle in modern times.  Then when silos were conceived of for storage of a "green grass" supplement, to feed during this "off season," milk production surged. Here you had a green forage along with the grain corn all in one.  Hay was still fed as a bulk food source but it was the green silage that really allowed the cows to produce milk in the off season.  During spring, summer and fall of course, cattle pastured day and night except for milking time. Nutritionally rich green forage produces milk.

Cattle were bred to "freshen" in the fall to provide for peak production when milk prices were at their highest. Corn silage from silos simply prolonged the green forage period.  Much later in the farming era, grass silage was started with almost as good results.  There are many reasons why some farmers converted to grass silage while others stuck with corn (soil type, land drainage, equipment, etc.)   Normally it was the goal of each farmer to put up enough silage to last until spring grass.

This farm still remains active, but once there were many more farms nearby. Sheffield Dairy bought milk from the local farmers and an active rail line carried it to New York City where demand for fresh milk was always high. The old rail line still runs near here, but the tracks are gone; now it is only used for bicycling.

JUST TWO MORE DISCOUNT DAYS to take advantage of Blurb's 20% off on either Best of Today's: 2009 or Farm. You'll have to register as a Blurb member, add my book to your cart, and then enter the code, BLURBDISCOUNT, in all caps when asked.