All the varieties of clover, except alfalfa, are best cut
for hay when in full bloom. Here and there a head may have turned brown.
If cut earlier, the crop is difficult to cure, nor will it contain a
maximum of nutriment. If
cut later it loses much in palatability.
Alfalfa should be cut a little earlier, or just when it is nicely coming
into bloom, as if cut later the shedding of the leaves in the curing is
likely to be large.
All clovers are much injured by exposure to rain or dew. They will also
lose much if cured in the swath, without being frequently stirred with
the tedder; that is, it will take serious injury if cured in the swath
as it fell from the mower. If cured thus, it will lose in aroma and
palatability, through the breaking of leaves and, consequently, in
feeding value. To avoid these losses, clover is more frequently cured in
the cock. When cured thus, it preserves the bright green color, the
aroma and the tint of the blossoms, it is less liable to heat in the mow
or stack and is greatly relished by live stock when fed to them.
To cure it thus, it is usually tedded once or twice after it has lost
some of its moisture. It is then raked as soon as it is dried enough to
rake easily, and put up into cocks. When the quantity to be cured is not
large caps are sometimes used to cover the cocks to shed the rain when
the weather is showery. These are simply square strips of some kind of
material that will shed rain, weighted at the corners to keep them from
blowing away. The clover remains in the cocks for two or three days, or
until it has gone through the sweating process. Exposure to two or
three showers of rain falling at intervals while partially cured in the
swath or winrow will greatly injure clover hay.
When the area to be harvested is large, clover is sometimes cured in the
swath. When thus cured it is stirred with the tedder often enough to aid
in curing the hay quickly. It is then raked into winrows and drawn from
these to the place of storage. In good weather clover may be cured thus
so as to make fairly good hay, but not so good as is made by the other
method of curing. It is much more expeditiously made, but there is some
loss in leaves, in color and in palatability.
Some farmers cure clover by allowing it to wilt a little after it is
cut, and then drawing and storing it in a large mow. They claim that it
must be entirely free from rain or dew when thus stored. This plan of
curing clover has been successfully practised by some farmers for many
years; others who have tried it have failed, which makes it evident that
when stored thus, close attention must be given to all the details
essential to success.
Clover may also be cured in the silo. While some have succeeded in
making good ensilage, in many cases it has not proved satisfactory. The
time may come when the conditions to be observed in making good silage
from clover will be such that the element of hazard in making the same
will be removed. In the meantime, it will usually be more satisfactory
to cure clover in the ordinary way.
Grasses cure more easily and more quickly than clovers. Consequently,
when these are grown together so that the grasses form a considerable
proportion of the hay, the methods followed in curing the grasses will
answer also for the clovers. For these methods the reader is referred to
the book Grasses and How to Grow Them by the author. The influence
that grasses thus exert on the growing of clovers furnishes a weighty
reason for growing them together.
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