Kids returning to school, shorter days, and falling leaves are signals to a changing season. Also a sign? Harvesters and combines in the fields. All summer farmers have been working hard to grow their crops and now it’s time to get them harvested before winter
Corn for Cows
In late September or early October, many farmers in the Fraser Valley will be harvesting the field corn once it is dry enough. Harvesting corn for silage is a science! If the corn is harvested too wet it will get too acidic over the winter and could result in nutrient loss. If the corn is too dry, it could spoil! Once the corn has reached 8-12 feet tall, the whole plant gets chopped into 1-inch pieces. This means the stalk, kernel, and leaf, is broken down into small pieces to aid digestion.
The Last of the Hay
In early October, rain and temperatures are starting to fall. Fields may see more moisture in the first few weeks of fall than ever through the dry summer months. Any feed made in these months would have more moisture, and is typically made into silage (i.e., “pickled” feed) rather than bales (i.e., dry feed).
In the Okanagan, harvesting alfalfa starts early in the season with subsequent harvests every 40-45 days. Alfalfa is a weather-hardy legume that, near harvest, grows small purple flowers which contain seeds. By September, the 3rd crop should be ready for harvest and ready to dry!
Following the harvesting seasons, farmers may opt to fortify the soil by planting cover crops which is a winter-hardy crop grown specifically to prevent soil erosion and run-off! Farmers are taking special care of the fields, which means that many apply nutrients and let the soil rest over the winter before starting fieldwork again in the spring.
Ask a dairy farmer, and they will tell you they do not get enough rest, especially during the fall. Quick dinners start happening in fields and Gatorades are brought in coolers to field hands as a brief encouragement to keep going. As crop season comes to a close, farmers continue to dedicate time to their cows by ensuring the last of the quality crops are made into feed they can be enjoyed through the winter.