STEP 4 - WEED CONTROL

 

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Hay Farming
Hay farming process.

Step 1- Tilling
Working the soil.

Step 2 - Planting
Planting the seed.

Step 3 - Irrigation
Watering the crop.

Step 4 - Weed Control
Dealing with weeds.

Step 5 - Fertilizing
Fertilizing the soil.

Step 6 - Cutting
Cutting the hay.

Step 7 - Baling
Baling up the hay.

Step 8 - Stacking
Stacking the hay bales.

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Weeds and More Weeds!  If Only the Crop Grew So Well!

Once the growing season begins, the crop is not the only thing that begins to grow around the farm.  In fact, oftentimes long before the alfalfa begins to actively grow, certain varieties of weeds are waking up and getting a head start.  If you were paying good money to buy hay to feed your animal, then naturally you don't want to be paying for weeds.  Some weeds are OK and edible, but some weeds can be harmful to animals.  Certain weeds can be toxic to livestock.  In addition, some weeds like foxtail can have a barbed seed that can actually dig in and work into soft mouth tissues.  This can lead to infection and worse.  Obviously, this is not good!  As a result, weed control is a fact of life in farming if you intend to try your best in producing good quality hay.  This is also true of many other crops.  Early in the season, preferably before the alfalfa has broken dormancy (while it's still in its winter sleep), it is possible to spray the field with a pre-emergent herbicide that has a residual effect in the soil for much of the season.  I hire a big sprayer to come out and spray the alfalfa fields, because they can do it so much more efficiently and effectively.  When a weed seed tries to grow, then the weed control chemical on the top of the soil prevents the seed from successfully germinating.  If done properly, this can help control weeds in the hay field for much of the season.  Typically, towards the end of the season, the residual effect starts to wear off and weeds can become more of an issue.   

Pre-emergent Weed Control 

Massive Sprayer Applying Pre-emergent Weed Killer on Our Alfalfa Field

There are many other areas around the fields that are in need of weed control during the farm season.  In reality, apart from irrigation and harvest activities, weed control makes up a lot of my work during the season.  I bought a Fimco 60 gallon trailer sprayer to use for weed control around the farm.  The sprayer came with a hand wand and a fold out 10ft wide spray boom with 7 spray nozzles.  I also installed a set of boomless spray nozzles on my trailer sprayer that allowed me to spray large areas in widths of 30+ feet in a single pass; however, I found that the boomless sprayer was much harder to control.  It had to be very calm while spraying, or else the spray would drift too much.  You want the spray to go where you intend so you kills the weeds, and so you don't kill desirable plants.  In addition, the droplet size of boomless sprayer was larger and not as effectively in completely covering and killing all the weeds.  So, I now use the 10ft spray boom and hand wand most of the time.

Fimco Weed Sprayer

Fimco Trailer Sprayer for Weed Control

Now, to take a step back regarding what I've learned about weed control.  When we first moved to our small farm, I was ignorant of so many things.  One of the things (among MANY) that I was really ignorant about was weeds.  That first season, I unintentionally let the weeds in the areas surrounding the fields go out of control.  It doesn't take long for weeds to grow!  I've often thought, if only the crop would grow so well!  In any case, that first season I was so busy trying to learn about the farming process, that I neglected the fact that weeds were taking over many areas.  My hay fields were kept clean, but dirt roads, ditches, and other open areas became "forests" of weeds.  I had certain weeds that grew to 5-6 feet in height!  Some of them looked like small trees!  At that point, I used a Sears lawn tractor on which I installed a front bumper.  I would get a running start at the tall weeds and ram them over with the lawn tractor.  Then I proceeded to go back and forth to grind them up little by little.  It was a slow, painstaking process.  It wasn't easy for the little lawn tractor either!  Let's just say that the lawn tractor took a beating, and I had frequent repairs to make on it to remind me that it was never intended to be used this way.  I blew 2 engines (thrown rod) abusing it like this.  That's a whole nother story!  At that time, I did not have a proper tractor mower, and so I used what I had.  In any case, even though I succeeded in knocking down and grinding up these massive growths of weeds, the damage had already been done.  MILLIONS and MILLIONS of weed seeds were already created and spread throughout the property.  I paid the price for that oversight for many years to come!    

Herein lies a key point in effective weed control.  If at all possible, it is essential to try to control the weeds BEFORE they are able to develop seeds.  If you wait until after the weed has gone to seed, then the weed killer you spray might kill the weed itself, but there will be numerous other weeds to deal with in the future.  All those seeds are like tiny "time bombs" in the soil waiting to go off when the conditions are right.  If you let things get out of control, then your weed problems will only get worse and worse.  After that first season, I learned my lesson and I officially declared war on the weeds!  At first, it was very discouraging.  It seemed that just as soon as the weeds would begin to die after spraying, then a new crop of weeds would start to grow full force.  I'd spray again... and again... and again.  Those first few years, I really had to work hard at weed control to keep one step ahead of the weeds.  It took 2 or 3 years of hard work, but it has finally paid off.  I'm sure that weeds will always be a reality as long as we are living on this planet, but effective weed control can help make life much easier, and keep your property looking much nicer.  In my case, it also helps to keep weed seeds out of my alfalfa fields and results in higher quality alfalfa hay.  Now, I don't have nearly as many weeds to deal with around the farm.  Instead of using my 60 gallon trailer sprayer all the time, I can now often use a Solo backpack sprayer to spot treat weeds around the farm.  Typically, I start off the season with the Fimco trailer sprayer to get the larger areas of weeds, but then the weed pressure later in the season is less and so I can spot spray and even just pull weeds by hand in places.  Again, the key to effective weed control is keeping one step ahead of the weeds.  Don't wait until the weeds go to seed!

 

 

 

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