We often see a green field of grass during the summer as we drive down a winding country road. Then, later on we see neatly stacked bales of golden hay all in tidy rows. However, most people do not often think of the process that takes the green grass and turns it into the golden bales.
The hay harvesting process can be tricky. While you have to take into account the height and growth of the plant, moisture content is one of the most important factors when baling hay. For quality bales, the stem moisture of your hay should be between 8 and 15 percent. At that level of moisture, hay feels brittle and breaks easily. To accomplish this, it is best to have a few sunny days in the forecast to cut your pasture and this allows for the sunshine to help dry your hay.
So how does someone achieve a moisture level of 8 to 15 percent? Fortunately, farmers have traded their scythes, which used to be the only hay making tool, in for mowers, conditioners, tedders, rakes, and balers. This makes the process much quicker, saving time and labor.
To start the hay making process, mowers are used to make a clean and consistent cut no matter the terrain. Then, if needed, tedders spread the hay out of the rows created by the mower to allow the fresh cut forage to dry easier and more quickly. A must for any hay field is the rake. Rakes allow for hay to be collected into rows for easier baling. Then, the baler comes through and picks up the hay that was made into windrows by the rake to be packed into nice, neat bales.
Hay can be baled in many different shapes and sizes. The shape of the hay bales comes down to the baling equipment that is used. Large round bales are around 1,500 pounds each and can be moved by one person and a tractor, cutting down labor. Square bales may be smaller at 50 pounds each but these require more labor with multiple people moving them by hand.
Whether you choose round or square bales, hay can be offered as another source of nutrients that the animals might not receive from feed or grass. When there is not enough pasture land or maybe grazing is not giving them all of the nutrients they need, making hay is an effective and efficient way of getting your livestock the nutrition they need all year long.
Want to learn more about the nutritional qualities of hay?
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