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weighing the trifling inferiority in quality, and wliich should, in fact increase, rather than lessen, the estimated saving by a better husbandry. That such a gain is practicable, has been proved again and again. Repeatedly have farmers told me—“I now cut over but about half as much land as formerly, but I get fully as much hay, and get it easier.” This is one, and only one, of the many ways in which saving or profit can be effected; and similar calculations on other points in hay culture, would show that immense gain to the agricultural interests of the State would result from the adoption of possible improvements in its culture and harvesting.
The value of hay as food for animals depends in large measure upon the time when it is cut and the method in which it is cured, yet notwithstanding the acknowledged importance of these points and the length of time during which the attention of thousands of interested observers has been directed to them, no conclusions have been arrived at which command universal concurrence. Consequently, practice varies according to the views held. Some cut as soon as the bloom appears, or even earlier, and others at all subsequent stages until the seeds fall, and the plants are so dry that the product may
be stored almost as soon as cut. Such differences of practice must necessarily be followed by a wide variation in its value. That such variation actually exists, is evidenced by the fact, that upon the same quantity of hay, and this made from the same grasses, the stock of one farmer will thrive and that of another will dwindle. If hay was directly consumed by men and women, instead of being, as it is, an indirect means of their sustenance, it seems altogether likely that there would be, ere this, more general acquiescence on both the above points, and that the variation which might still prevail could be accounted for on the ground of differing tastes, as some would prefer more salt in their butter than others.
Upon the value of grass there is far less difference of opinion. Few will hesitate to admit that animals upon good pasturage, supposing them to come out in spring in a condition which enables them to progress at once and without waiting to repair the wastes of winter, will thrive more rapidly, on grass only, than upon any other food.
The principal point to be inquired into in order to decide the best period for cutting, is, when does grass contain the most nutriment ?
And to this, no definite and precise answer can be given, which will be alike correct in all cases, for the reason that in different grasses, this stage is not the same, being earlier in some than in others; but for a general answer, both theory and the opinions derived from the experience of the great majority of intelligent and observing farmers, concur in the reply-When in full blossom, or while the bloom is falling. At this period, most grasses have, so far as can be judged, obtained from the soil and from the atmosphere, the greatest amount which they will have at any stage of growth, which is of value as food for animals, and these exist at this period in the most valuable form. The changes which take place subsequently, are chiefly within the plant; a part of the starch, sugar, gum, albumen, &c., soon go to assist in the formation of seed, and a part to constitute woody fibre, which is indigestible and worthless; and so much as is thus converted, is actual loss. Of hay cut at a later stage, cattle will doubtless eat less, and some infer from this, that it will “spend better;" but the true reason why they eat less is, because the system can digest and assimilate less. The actual benefit derived from hay is in proportion to the available nutriment contained in it.
There are other considerations, however, than simply the amount of nutriment, which should be taken into consideration in determining the preferable time to cut grass, as the use to which it is to be put. Many believe, that if designed for milch cows, it might be cut earlier than if for working oxen. The fact, that early cut hay is more palatable and better relished than late cut, should be an inducement; where all cannot be cut at exactly the best time, to begin in good season.
The difference between hay and straw, lies chiefly in the fact, that in the latter, most of the virtues of the plant have concentrated in the grain, and while, if this is to be used for seed, we cannot improve upon nature's process of ripening, and so do well to let it mature thoroughly in the field, we know that wheat cut before it is ripe, shows a handsomer kernel and makes better bread than if allowed to stand until perfectly mature.
Another reason for early rather than late cutting is, the increased quantity of aftermath. Allowing that with some grasses, the seed crop contains more nutriment than the flowering crop, the rowen obtainable, may, and we know often does, more than outweigh the
difference. One other consideration should be mentioned: the desirableness of leaving the plant when cut in the condition promising the greatest future usefulness. Many species of grasses may be cut with impunity at any stage; but as already noticed, with regard to Timothy, (Herdsgrass,) page 84, and such may possibly be the case with some others, there seems reason to believe that unless a certain stage of maturity be reached, the bulb or tuber at the bottom, may be weakened, and if drouth follows, perhaps killed. But in this connexion, it should not be forgotten, that in all herbaceous vegetation there is a tendency to die, wholly, or in part, on the production of seed. Thus annuals die at once, when they have attained the end of their growth, namely, seed for the reproduction of their species; and in many of them their duration may be continued for an indefinite period, by preventing this consummation. It is a common practice among gardeners in cultivating the annual mignonette, when a durable plant is desired, to deprive it of its flower-buds, as often as they appear. By so doing, the plant assumes the appearance of a woody shrub, and will live for three or four years, dying, however, after being allowed to produce seed.
Winter wheat which has been repeatedly cut down during its first summer's growth, has been known to survive the following winter and to produce a tolerable crop the summer after. The results of such experiments show that not allowing seeding in due season has a tendency to prolong the duration of life in plants; and it is upon this principle that by pasturing meadows they will maintain a continuous production of herbage, when were they cropped for hay they would fail, and this the more rapidly in proportion as the grass was older before being cut. So that, as a general rule, it is bad practice not to make hay early. Otherwise what is gained in quantity is mostly prejudiced in quality, and the after consequences are always unfavorable, circumstances arising not solely from the impoverishment of the soil. *
I have dwelt upon the proper period for cutting, longer than otherwise might seem expedient, partly from a conviction that in the State at large far greater loss is sustained by too late than by too early cutting, and partly in view of the fact that improved facilitics
for harvesting enable the farmer better than formerly to choose his time.
When an acre can be cut in an hour which formerly required the best part of a day, and raked with a proportionate saving of time, it is evident that this subject assumes a greater importance than when, however well he might be advised as to the best time, he was compelled to lose considerably at one end or the other, not to say at both.
The nutritive value of the different grasses compared with one another is a subject of great importance, and one which has received much attention. Its study either by the aid of chemical analysis or by actual trials in feeding, is beset with difficulties. Every good farmer can understand how the age, condition and temperament of an animal, and the treatment in other respects than that of feeding, together with a thousand other circumstances difficult of accurate estimation, might vary results; and the great discrepancies in the nutritive values of various vegetable foods as assigned to them by different authors who base their statements upon feeding experiments, also show that there is abundant margin for fallacies to creep in, by this mode. Every good chemist, too, is ready to admit that his utmost skill and care will not unfrequently give results widely differing from those obtained from actual feeding. The labors of both have not been without a degree of practical value, and as science and practice never advanced more rapidly than now, or were so willing to walk hand in hand, we may hope that by and bye, through the united labors of the feeder in the stall and the chemist in his laboratory, we may attain much greater light, and reliable results by which we may be safely guided.
The first extensive and careful experiments which threw light upon this subject, were instituted by the Duke of Bedford, and carried out and published under the superintendence of Mr. George Sinclair, in 1824. The method then adopted to ascertain the nutritive value of any grass, although directed by Sir Humphrey Davy, and the best which chemical science at that comparatively early day could give, was exceedingly imperfect. It was simply this: submit the grass to the action of hot water till all its soluble parts are taken up; then separate the liquor, and evaporate to dry
The product of solid matter was deemed the nutritive matter
of the grass.
Subsequent to this, Boussingault, an eminent German cheinist, attempted to establish by a more scientific mode, a theoretical table of the nutrition of articles of food, founded on the amount of nitrogen they contain; (because the nitrogenous or flesh-forming constituents in food, being the most important and most expensive materials, their determination affords a better basis for forming an approximate estimate of the entire relative value of articles of food than the determination of the fat, or heat, or bone producing constituents ;) but when he came to test by this table, their practical value, he found it to be, in many cases, at variance with the experience of acknowledged good farmers and feeders, and confessed that the amount of nitrogen in a food must be regarded as one factor only, though a very important one in estimating the nutritive equivalent.
More recently still, Prof. Way has made extensive and minute investigations, and his results are undoubtedly the nearest approximation to accuracy which have yet been obtained. His chief inquiries were, to ascertain,
First, The proportion of albuminous or flesh-forming substances; that is to say, all which contain nitrogen, and which when digested, go to form the muscles or flesh, and cartilages, and to repair the constant waste which goes on in the animal system;
Next, The proportion of oily or fatty matters, which so directly tend to increasing the fat of the system; also the proportion of heat producing principles or elements of respiration, as sugar, starch, gum, &c., containing no nitrogen, but which are used in sustaining animal heat, by furnishing carbon, and is not wholly needed for this, assist in the formation of fat;
Next, The proportion of woody fibre; (inert and worthless;) and
Lastly, The amount of mineral matter or ash, a portion of which goes to the formation of bone.
The researches of Prof. Way, covering as they do, all the different classes of constituents, and having been conducted with great skill and scrupulous care, may justly be deemed of great value, and relied upon with considerable confidence.
The results of bis analysis of some of the natural and artificial grasses, are as follows: