I have been meaning to write this blog post since fall hay cutting, and I am just now getting around to typing it up. See, at least twice a year, more often three times a year, I loose my husband for a week or two to the glorious process of “making hay”.
Now, for those of a more agricultural background, I guess I should call it baling hay, or even putting up forage for the winter, but I have alway been partial to “making hay”. The phrasing reminds me of the chapter in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story about “making hay while the sun shines”. For at least two weeks, my husband hangs on every word uttered by the local weather men. You see sunshine is a critical ingredient in producing great hay.
Lets start of the proper way for you nonfarmer types and define what “hay” is.
grass, clover, alfalfa, etc., cut and dried for use as forage.
grass mowed or intended for mowing.
a small sum of money: Twenty dollars an hour for doing very little certainly ain’t hay.
money: A thousand dollars for a day’s work is a lot of hay!
Well, even this doctor did not know that hay was a slang for Pot.
So, now that we know that hay is a dried form of grass, why does it take up so much of my husband’s time? Well, in the winter it’s cold here in Tennessee, and all the grass (well all the good grasses) die. Since, cattle are a grazing animal, no grass, nothing for my cows to eat.
Now, they could make do on the poor pitiful grass that’s left if they had too, but that would cause stress and increase their risk of infections or miscarriage. As a farmer, my husband works very hard to make sure that our animals, cows and horses, have everything that they need to stay healthy on our farm.
But how do you take grass out in a field and get those nice round bales of hay? Well, pictures are worth a thousand words. So here we go.
Here is a field of grass that has been cut. We cut the grass with a special piece of equipment on our farm called a “haybine”. But there are other pieces of equipment that can be used for this step.
All of the hay cutting equipment is pulled behind a tractor.
Once, the grass has been laid down on the ground, we let it dry in the sun. Then, it’s time to tet the hay into rows to get ready for bailing. Tetting helps the hay dry faster.
These are pictures of my very first hay tetting experience. I LOVED IT. There was no way that I could hear my phone and no one bothered me the entire time I was on the tractor. I learned that it was important to watch where the wheels of the tractor went, so my husband did not fuss.
This is important because where the tractor wheels go, the equipment follows. After tetting the hay is raked into “windrows” so the baler can pick it up.
These two pictures show the tetter up close.
Next, it’s time to use a different piece of equipment called a baler. This puts the rows of grass into bales of hay. These bales can be round, which is what we mostly do because its easier to feed a field of cows with one BIG bale. These bales are so heavy, we have to use the tractor to move them to the cattle when it’s time to feed. Round bales can weigh in at 1500-1800 pounds. So, that means two bales of hay weigh as much as a small car.
But, hay can come in square bales too. This type of storage is a better way to feed our dried grass, aka forage, to cattle or horses. The disadvantage to square bales is once they are made in the field, someone has to follow along behind a trailer and “throw” these bales, weighing in over 75 pounds each, up to another person on a trailer to stack them up. Once, you have a trailer load, the process goes in reverse throwing the hay off the trailer to stack in a barn till time to feed.
Whew, it makes me sweat and my arms hurt just thinking about that. Not to mention most of this work is done in 85 degree plus weather.
I have never been off work to work in square bales. Hubby says my arms are too puney anyway. He might let me drive the truck.
The point of all this work in the hot sun is to get the grasses cut and baled when they are at their prime. This means careful attention to the grass, so we get the most nutrient rich food for our animals.