By Tom Collins
YARKER — Going for a walk among the hay fields is one way to ensure high-quality hay, said the 2015 Ontario Forage Master.
“The biggest thing is just paying attention to details and spending that extra bit of extra time with the small things,” said Chris Brown, who along with his wife Brianne runs Beslea Holsteins in Yarker — about 30 minutes northwest of Kingston in Lennox and Addington County. “At the start of May, I try to walk hay fields once a week. Watching your hay field helps when you’re trying to make a high-quality product. Then you know the stages and timing because things can change so quickly.”
Brown — who grows three types of hay over 180 acres and milks 25 Jerseys and 75 Holsteins — said high-quality hay reduces metabolism problems in cows and significantly lowers the cost of production as it displaces costly supplements.
Cows will eat more when presented with the higher-quality hay.
“If you had fresh McDonald’s French fries and McDonald’s French fries that have rolled around the car floor for two weeks, which ones are going to taste better?” he said. “Cattle are the same way. They’re going to want to eat more of a higher-quality forage.”
As part of becoming the Ontario Forage Master, Brown is competing in the 2016 American Forage and Grassland Council’s Forage Spokesperson Competition in January 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Ontario Forage Master contest is also a good way for to do a self-evaluation of his farm.
“Sometimes when we do things year after year, we get into habits,” he said. “When I looked at my stuff, it made me sit back and think, maybe I should track this, or maybe I should be keeping a record of this a little bit better. It also made me look at some of the steps that we’ve taken, wondering is there a better way.”