• Rachel Francis

The Flat Eight & Dr Green

This blog is an alternative to a traditional glossary, providing background to The Long Acre.

Also in the pipeline: What's a bow top? How to tether a goat and a dilemma ... what is driving a wedge between good farming and making enough money to stay in business?

A Flat Eight is a hydraulic bale grab that can be attached to the front end loader of a tractor. It is rarely seen anymore but is symbolic of big changes in agriculture.

Back in the '80s, the Flat Eight was marketed as a labour saving device for the hardworking farmers. The device was used to pick up 8 small hay bales at a time and put them up on the hay trailer. It was unable to stack bales in the interlocking pattern that holds a traditional load of bales together, so the hay harvest was still quite labour intense, but the advent of the round bale was going to change all of that.

If you went to the Royal Smithfield Agricultural Show in the mid 80s, you would have witnessed a great change happening. Where farmers and their produce once dominated the arena, now the stars of the show were huge machines that promised to take the physical work out of farming. The marketing was slick but it was the driving power of global economic forces that made change inevitable.

And so the Flat Eight had a short moment and was forgotten. But for those who keep horses and/or farm at a much simpler scale, making small hay bales which can be moved by hand remains a practical alternative and so the old balers and bale sledges and even occasionally an old Flat Eight can still be found in regular use, here and there.

June hay is the best hay for horses, the grass at that time of year is full of goodness. It's also good grass for dairy production, and for milk yields.

By the time the first cut of grass is taken, most cattle that have been housed during the winter months have been turned out for the summer. Cows love going back out and within weeks, their coats start to shine and all the ills of winter disappear, which is why the first grass of summer is also known as Doctor Green.

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Thank you for all your feedback. I'm so pleased that people have enjoyed reading The Long Acre. News about sequel here (You need to scroll down) Rachel x