It’s all about the hay

The taste of dairies and meat depends on what the cow has been fed: the higher the quality of the animal feed, the better the food that ends on our table. This is the reason why south-tyrolean farmers feed their steers, horses and sheeps with the best animal feed. The hay quality depends strictly on where the meadow is located, how it’s fertilized, dried and stored and on the environmental conditions.
The hay reaped from the first mowing is the richest with nutrients. The grass and herbs, grown just after the winter, had plenty of time to bloom. There are a lot of different flowers which grow beside very diverse herbs. The meadows are welcoming for butterflies, bees and lots of bugs that look for nectar and pollen.

Also on the Ritten, depending on the weather conditions and on the rainfalls, the farmers mow the grass four times a year: what comes from the first mow at the end of may will be called hay (Heu), the product of july’s mowing it’s the Groamet, that of august is the Pofl and – by good weather – the Nochpofl will be mowed in october.

It takes at least three days to make hay: on the first day the grass must be cut, the next day it must be raked two times before it can be dried and stored in the barn. To successfully complete the process the sun must be shining. In case of rain, the whole process might take more time.

By the second and the third mowing the weather conditions are no longer optimal. The nights get longer and colder, the sun rays are less intense, the air is moist and the flowers don’t grow. In these types of hay, Groamet and Pofl, there is less cellulose but the proteins are higher. This hay is the perfect animal feeding for sheeps, steers and goats but not for horses: the blades of grass are too short and this lowers their salivation, leading to abdominal cramping.

After the mowing, for all these types of hay, it’s time for the drying phase which can last from six to eight weeks. During this phase the hay cannot be fed to the animals because of the microbial activity: in fact, the microbes supply the heat in the barn, so that the water can evaporate and the grass dries out.

South Tyrol is well known for its beautiful meadows, but only few people are aware that to get such results it’s all about time, commitment and experience: a good hay, in all its varieties, it’s the result of farmers hard work. A hay of quality is therefore not only important to the animals because, in some way, it ends up on our dinner table too.
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