By delaying the cutting of hay to after nesting season, it is possible to significantly increase the chances of fledgling bird survival. Where possible, hay should be cut after July 15th. This may have an impact on the nutritional quality of the hay as protein counts are lower in hay cut later. However, this is only a significant concern for those cutting hay specifically for lactating cows.
Raising Cutting Height
Raising the height by 10cm will have little impact on the nutritional quality of the hay (there is little nutritional value to the woody stalks), but will have a significant impact on the survival rate of different species, including the threatened wood turtle.
Furthermore, increasing the cutting height has also been linked to a decrease in damage to machinery, increased soil health (as soil structure is maintained), and reduced susceptibility to erosion.
Mowing in Different Patterns
Instead of starting your cut along the perimeter of the field, instead consider starting in the centre and working outwards, or going back and forth starting at one side of the field.
Planting Late-Maturing Cultivars
The timing of hay cutting and the nesting activities of certain field birds coincide. By planting hay cultivars that mature further into the summer season, by the time the hay is ready to cut, fledgling birds have grown enough to be able to fly out of harm’s way.
A Flushing bar is a piece of equipment that is mounted on mowing machines. These simple devices create noise and vibrations that alert any species that may be near the equipment to get out of the way.
Flushing bars can help reduce mortality of ground-nesting birds like the short-eared owl, Eastern meadowlark and the bobolink, all of which are species at risk in Nova Scotia.
Flushing bars are available to farmers through Ducks Unlimited Canada. To get a flushing bar, you can get in touch with DUC in Amherst, NS at firstname.lastname@example.org, or toll free at: 1-866-903-8257.
Are you handy with design and build projects? Check out this site where you can get starter plans to build your own flushing bars and contribute to the design of successful prototypes that others can also use.