For the last few weeks smallholders, especially those without livestock, have been dealing with the long grass in their pastures. We do this as part of our veld management programme in preparation for the fire season. We will use the grass as winter feed or to make a small income from the sale of bales.
So we have been cutting and then hoping for a couple of days of sunshine, rather than rain, to allow the cuttings to dry out a little. Raking will also help to allow internal moisture to dry out further. If you haven’t started yet, there is advice on haymaking in the March edition of the Gauteng Smallholder magazine.
Most of us do not have expensive baling machines, so what do we do with the grass once it has been cut?
If you will be using it yourself as fodder, bedding or as mulch, one alternative is to make a classic haystack, preferably under cover, or at least covered with a tarpaulin, taking off whatever you need throughout the winter using a pitchfork, and a high-sided trailer for transportation.
But there is a relatively simple solution to baling which is manageable for a DIY smallholder and that is to make a baling box. Have a look on the Gauteng Smallholder website for two examples of plans and instructions on making a box. (Go to
http://gautengsmallholder.co.za/documents/ and scroll down to the Useful Stuff section).
A baling box is a large, sturdy open-topped rectangular wooden box which will yield a rectangular bale which is looser and larger than a standard small square bale, but which, if properly done, will weigh 15-20kg ~ about the same as a standard machine-made square bale.
A more compact bale, more closely approximating the size of a machine bale and yet rendering a bale of similar weight, can be made if you build a hand baler.
This can be constructed at home out of wood and in its most sophisticated iteration will have two trolley wheels fitted to facilitate moving about the field.
Both designs require two people to make the bales.