Rolling in the Hay
There is a lot going on in the world. But like clockwork, haying season is upon us, and I am a gearing up to cut my first 20 acres or so today. It will be a field of new clover, alfalfa and grass that I frost seeded in the winter of 2018/19. It looks great, with a thick, full stand over most of the ground.
We don't own a baler, so I am having a neighbor bring his in again. Last year, I paid to have the hay baled, but this year I will split the crop with him, giving him a third of the hay for his work. According to the financials, he is getting a pretty good deal. If I were to pay him to bale, it would cost me about $15 per bale, but a bale is worth at least $50 if he sells it. It seems like a big loser, but buying a baler is expensive and our cash on hand is short. We will have a lot more hay than we need this year, so that is the route we will go.
The first thing I have to do after moving cattle this morning is get the New Holland disc-bine hay conditioner out of the storage shed where it has slumbered all winter and begin to limber it up. It is a big, complex, heavy machine that first cuts and then lightly crushes the hay so it will dry out in the sun faster. Later the hay will be baled, once it is dried (if it is baled when it is too wet, it can catch on fire as it ferments).
Since the conditioner is so heavy, there is a special fitting that has to be attached to the 140 horse power Case IH tractor so that it can be pulled. Next, all the gearbox oil levels need to be checked and tire pressure as well, then the whole machine has to be greased with a grease gun and slowly spun into motion. If all the blades, rollers, springs, bearings, shields, doo dads, gewgaws and thingamajigs are in working order, off I will go. If not, it is probably off to town to buy parts and an afternoon spent cursing, straining and grunting trying to get the new parts in place, hopefully with success. Barring that happy outcome, it will be time to call the local shade tree mechanic in for some extra muscle and know how. But HOPEFULLY, this fixing things bit will be moot and the machine, which is only 5 seasons old and hasn't been used much will operate swimmingly.
As we have talked about in previous posts, baling hay is a task requiring a lot of assistance from mother nature. Ideally, the hay is at just the right point of maturity, the ground and air are dry to wick away the plants moisture after it is cut, the sun stays out and the rains stay away for at least 3 if not 4 days so that the whole process can go off without a hitch. If it is too humid, the hay can mold. If it rains, the hay has to be turned over with a rake to dry out again. And if it continues to rain on it, the hay can be completely ruined.
But being a farmer, I am forever optimistic that none of these bad things will happen and in a couple of days, I will have 40-50 brand spanking new bales sitting in my hay shed. If the weather cooperates - I will cut all my hay at least twice during the summer and have hundreds of lovely, savory treats for bovine degustation, cooling their heels over the summer and fall, ready to feed hungry cows this winter.
So, wish me luck as I make hay while the sun shines.