FROM SEED TO FEED With many different brands of hay and straw available to us, it is often difficult to decide which one to buy. Like most things price plays a large part but what really makes a good bale of hay or straw? We grow and sell premium hay and barley straw and we take pride on the measures that we have put into place to ensure a high standard of quality in all of our products. Grass varieties are carefully selected and the hay and straw has to go through vigorous quality control processes to ensure that nothing other than hay and straw is packaged. It takes nine to ten months to produce a premium Norfolk Pastures quality bale of hay and we manage the process right through from start to finish, all from one location in Norfolk. Norfolk Pastures is an established company and we have many years of experience growing meadow hay as well as other crops on our farm in the village of Griston, Norfolk. The team works around the clock to ensure that the meadow hay is harvested near to seeding when it is lush and green and at its absolute best, but work begins long before then. In September, the land where the new pastures of grass are to be sown in the farm’s three-year crop rotation plan, is being prepared by ploughing, drilling and then rolling to ensure the new seedlings are drilled into a fine, firm, level and moist seed bed. As owner and Farmer William Dyer explains, “Getting the seed bed correct is vital as the specialist varieties we sow are not as vigorous as the high yielding cattle feed varieties. They are more susceptible to climate changes hence why we must do everything possible to give them the best start to be strong enough for the winter. There are certain varieties of grasses that are better than others, as William explains, “We select varieties of Timothy, Cocksfoot, Yorkshire Fogs, Fescues and other meadow grasses to give a variety of tastes and textures to reduce boredom and to give the best health benefits by increasing your animal’s happiness and well being.” Work continues whilst waiting for harvest to begin and no time is wasted in ensuring that all of Norfolk Pastures’ hay and straw is of premium quality. All of the meadows are closely monitored to ensure that foreign objects are removed before the hay is cut. The process of harrowing and aerating the meadows to remove dead grass and promote tillering is done early spring and an application of nitrogen is given to boost growth when the weather warms up. William explains that litter can also be a challenge, “Our metal detection technology alerts us to any metal objects in the hay before it is packaged but we also perform checks on the meadows before the hay is cut. Littering from the roads is an issue that we face every year and the only way to combat this is to manually check the meadows regularly ourselves. This is a labour intensive part of the process but this is what has to be done to ensure our hay and straw is clean and healthy.” Once it has been cut, the hay is then naturally sundried. Weather plays a major part in this process as the grass will need seven fine days of sunshine, where it will be turned twice a day to dry it before being baled. The bales are then stored for over three months to ensure that any parasites that may carry the Myxomatosis disease that is widespread nationally have their life cycle broken and so therefore the risk of this contagious disease spreading is eliminated. As with all other areas of the small animal market, changing trends have increased pressure on companies to add more quality to their products. One way in which Norfolk Pastures could meet this demand was to extract dust and fungal spores from the hay and straw, which can be damaging to an animal’s health. They have developed their own bespoke machinery for this process so that all of their hay and straw products are dust extracted before being packaged. CLEAN AND HEALTHY When you purchase Norfolk Pastures hay or straw you will have peace of mind that these are products that have gone through a rigorous process to extract dust, fungal spores and any nasty “bits” that could be damaging to your animals health. These are clean products that have been produced with quality control and traceability at the forefront of the production process. QUALITY CONTROLLED AND TRACEABLE Many companies claim to be producing clean and healthy hay and straw products, but William is concerned that many cannot guarantee the quality or traceability of their hay and straw. “Unfortunately, family-run companies like ours that produce and distribute all of our produce are uncommon in today’s competitive market. Most of us have simply been unable to compete against the larger companies but we do offer something more and that’s premium varieties, quality and traceability. We know exactly how it has been grown, processed and packaged because we do it all ourselves. When it is your own farming business you take a personal interest in the end product and you are always working towards improving quality to secure repeat custom.” Norfolk Pastures grows and sells meadow hay, barley straw, and wood shavings in various pack formats. To find your nearest stockist, please use the store locator.