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Weather’s fine, let’s make some hay

June 17, 2010

Makin’ Hay

Good morning Dear Reader.  Well, the weather has been nice in the Greater Bippus Area (GBA), and the weather forecasters predicted a sunny day yesterday, a sunny day today, and a sunny day tomorrow, with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.  That means that it is time to “make hay”.

Hay is grass, clover, alfalfa and/or other herbaceous plant material that is fed to livestock.  Haymaking, what some would call “doing the hay” is a multiple step process that starts with cutting, continues with drying, processing and finally storing.  Livestock farmers go through this process in the summer so that they can feed their animals during the winter.

Hay in the field

A fresh, green round bale of hay, just out of the baler

Look at that nice, big green round bale of hay!  The first step in the haymaking process is judging when to cut it.  Generally, this happens during a two week window, where the grass is fully leafed out, and the flowers are nearly full, or (almost) ready to make seed. The hay is mowed and placed into a windrow.

Hay mower

Tractor view of mower, making a windrow

Once the hay is cut and placed in windrows, the drying process begins.  One opinion is that the windrow should be raked when the mowed hay is about 40% dried.  That allows the leaves to be moist enough to remain intact.  There are several types of raking devices.  Most common in the GBA are tractor towed devices like this rotary rake:

Rotary hay rake

A rotary style hay rake

Once the hay has been sun dried to the level preferred by the farmer, it is raked to allow the sun to dry the other side.  Another style of rake is the tedder:

hay rake known as a tedder

The hay tedder in action

The hay tedder spreads the windrows, throwing the hay out evenly over the field.  This allows for more efficient drying.  Later today we will tedder this field again to let the underside of this cut hay dry in the afternoon sun.

When the hay gets dry enough for long term storage, it will be baled and moved into its long term storage location.  We hope to have some good photos of the baling process in a future post.

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