The Art of Making Hay. We all know cows and horses and goats eat hay and you can buy bales of hay from your local farmer or feed store, but what is involved in making hay? It’s a pretty arduous task from field to barn.
The whole process starts with cutting the hay. Most use a tractor and a rotary mower. Weather plays a big part in making hay. You’re looking for three days in a row with no rain and hopefully sunny, warm weather. The less humidity the better. The goal is to dry the hay as quickly as possible.
After the hay is cut, the next step is to tedder the hay. This process involves a tractor pulling an implement called a tedder which fluffs the hay and helps it to dry. There are different types of tedders but the idea is the same: fluff and toss the hay to get air through it so it dries faster. A good time to tedder is around 10:30 AM after the dew has dried. Depending on the weather, you may need to tedder the hay a few times.
When the hay is feeling drier, it’s time to rake the hay into windrows. This gets the hay off the ground to dry better and gets it ready to be picked up by the baler. The windrows are long rows of hay down the length of the field.
The tricky part is deciding if the hay is dry enough to bale. Damp, waxy grass is not a good sign, too wet, it may need another day to dry. The optimal situation is to tedder and rake the hay until it’s dry and bale it within 2 days. If you wait too long, it may turn brown and not be as desirable. Baling wet hay can cause it to grow moldy after it’s stored. It can also heat up and cause a fire in the barn. Making sure the hay is dry is important.
The last step if the hay feels dry is to get out your tractor and baler and finish the job. The baler basically picks up the hay squashes it together either into a square or round bale and wraps twine around it to keep it together. The hay is then loaded on a truck to be stored in the barn or sold to hay customers.
There is first cutting hay which is cut and baled around June and is the grass which has grown all winter. Usually if the weather cooperates, there is a second cutting in August or September. This cutting is usually greener and a favorite for horses. First cutting tends to be browner and coarser. Some animals prefer first cutting and some second. Second cutting is usually more expensive because it’s richer and there is usually less of it than first cutting.
Weather plays a huge part in making hay. A hot, sunny, windy day is optimal for drying. A sudden rain shower can ruin the hay. Once it’s wet, it loses a lot of its nutrition and needs to be dried again. Most of the time this hay will be sold as construction hay at a cheaper rate.
It’s a hot sweaty job, but in our family everyone helps and it can be a great family activity.
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