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Monday, September 14, 2009

Making hay in Oregon-in September....

Our Teff crop is not what it should be. It was planted late. I think it was close to the first of June. It was after the triticale downed out and after our 2" of rain in 15 minute thunderstorm. I think it was as soon after the downpour as I could get on the field.
Teff is a tiny seed, sort of like a grain of sand. You only plant 3-5lbs per acre so it is a bit of a challenge to plant. I used the small seed attachment on my Great Plains 1500 drill. I had it stopped down almost as far as it would go.
Teff is an annual grass. People use the seed for flour. Ethiopian folks like it. It is an important part of their diet back home. It is hard to find teff flour here in the USA.
We have been growing it for hay. Our ground is so wet we usually have a couple fields which we can't get planted until late. The choice usually ends up being Teff, Barley, or Buckwheat. Sometimes I do some sorgum-sudan hydbrid for hay but it has such thick stems the horsey folks won't buy it.
The Teff has done ok in the past. The hard part is getting the field clean enough. Teff does not compete well with broadleaf weeds or wild millet. No chemicals are labeled for it so you have to make sure you have a good sprout and a good kill on that sprout before you plant. Last year we got two cuttings and ended up with a total of close to four ton to the acre. This year we planted so late our first cutting was just to control weeds. We are doing our second cutting right now. I think it is only going a ton per acre.
The color is good. We set the mower for a wide swath, then let it dry for two days. Then I raked it to get it off the wet ground. We raked it twice then pulled the old Cunningham Hay Conditioner over it. This fluffed it up and crushed the thick stems of the water grass and actually got the moisture content down to 14 percent. I baled two stacker loads with the trusty old Freeman Baler before the moisture shot up to 22 percent and the bales started exploding. I figure if you can get your fingers under the strings they ain't baled tight enough...
The bales look really nice. I have a few customers who really love the hay. Their horses go crazy over the stuff. I don't know if it is the hay or my secret hay preservative that does it however. Not sure I want to reveal the secret. Budd E. Shepherd's hay tonic and laxative! I would say it cures baldness but it has not helped me. I will say that people tell me that their animals turn up their noses at other folk's hay after having a sample of mine. Sort of crack for cows I might say...
But, I digress.
I had a cunning plan for this Teff field. I planted two rows of Teff and one row of fescue. The seed salesman really put the switcheroo to me on the fescue. I ended up with high endophyte fescue which is what I said I didn't want. Doesn't work for hay. But, it is destined to be a grass seed field. The Teff is not tolerant of frost. My idea was that we would water the Teff all summer and the fescue would get a good start. The Teff would kill with the first frost but the fescue would keep growing. Of course we had a very hot and dry summer and one pump failed so we couldn't keep up with the water. The last fescue plant I found had burnt down to about a quarter inch from the ground. Not so good.
I have one bag of seed left. I'm going to no-till fescue back in as soon as the Teff is off.

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