In the Cotswolds a hundred years ago, sainfoin was grown in one in seven fields, for hay, forage and soil improvement. It’s almost died out now due to high input farming. However, our high pH of 7.8 and free-draining, brashy soil in the Cotswolds is perfectly suited to Sainfoin, so we decided to grow it, with the aim of producing a hay crop.
It was sown two years ago, in Spring 2015, into a prepared seedbed, rather than under-sowing with a cereal crop. It was sown at 35 kilos an acre with a cereal drill. Because the plan was always to cut the crop for hay we also sowed it with a low rate of companion grasses, meadow fescue and Timothy, at 3 kilos an acre to help reduce the weeds and increase yield.
It was cut last Tuesday and with good hot weather and a stiff breeze, it was ready to bale after five days. The critical part of the whole operation was to dry the crop without losing the sainfoin leaves which improve the quality and the appearance of the bale, but which can become brittle during the drying process. After tedding the crop out, post mowing ,we used an old-fashioned ‘Acrobat’ with a gentle turning action which worked well.
We’ve produced over a thousand bales from ten acres and we are now looking to sell it in to several specialist markets.