On our farm we produce giant marshmallows! No, they aren’t the kind that you roast over giant campfires. They are the kind that our dairy cows eat. Harvesting high quality hay for dairy cattle is a complicated process. It requires timing, skill, hard work and a lot of luck. Dairy cows need high protein hay to produce milk. That means that hay needs to be cut young (at early bud stage for alfalfa) and harvested without any rain and at the perfect moisture level. Waiting for it to dry naturally in the sun isn’t always an option. Besides, dry hay can often lose precious protein when its leaves are shattered off during the process.
On our farm we cut our hay into rows and bale it up into large round bales the following day at around 50% moisture. If this hay was stored in our barn it would spoil quickly and probably burn our barn down due to spontaneous combustion. This is why we create our marshmallows! Each bale is wrapped in plastic. They can be wrapped individually or in rows. The plastic seals the bale and prevents any air from getting in. This seal prevents spoilage and begins a fermentation process to preserve the bale for future use. An added benefit is being able to keep the bales outside to save on expensive indoor storage. To be honest, the cows love it. It’s like cow candy! Obviously, the plastic is cut off the bale before the cow eats the hay.So what happens to all of this used plastic? Thankfully it can be recycled. On our farm a company picks up the plastic for a small fee. In turn, they take the plastic and convert it into plastic posts for fences or boards for things like picnic tables. So next time you’re sitting around a plastic picnic table think of the plastic from the bale that the cow ate……and of course think of the farmer that grew the hay that the cow ate….then there’s the manure that grew the hay that the cow ate….and back to the cow that made the manure to grow the hay! Phew! Are you confused yet? I told you that it was a perfect circle of recycling.
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