A beginner’s guide to hay

round bale of hay

A picture of a round bale of hay from first cut 2013

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been at my in-laws’ farm. They needed some help on their farm, and I was more than happy to oblige. Because it was hay season, I got to learn a lot about hay.

So here’s what I learned about hay.

Bonus Video

In this bonus video, I show you the process of making hay in Farming Simulator 2013.

Let me know what you think.

What type of hay seeds work?

When you grow hay it can be a combination of seeds. Many farmers prefer a combination of different seeds.

A great combination is alfalfa, fescu grass and clover.

Depending on what type of livestock a farmer has will change what combination of hay they want. Some horse farmers prefer one combination where sheep farmers may want another.

Keep that in mind when you’re selling hay. Take note of what’s in your hay because some farmers are very particular.

How to know when to cut hay?

It’s funny when I was helping out, I didn’t cut any hay, so I had no idea when to do it. So I asked when you should cut hay.

The best time to cut hay is when your hay-field is just about to flower. That’s the answer I got for first cut.

OMAFRA suggests cutting hay in the morning just after the morning dew is off for better drying. However, if you want more sugar in your hay OMAFRA suggests cutting hat later in the day.

Try to cut a swath that is as large as possible. This helps hay dry faster.

How to know when hay is dry?

Now that you’ve cut the hay you need to know when it’s dry. The way I learned to see if it is dry is to reach under the windrow and feel the bottom of the hay.

If the hay feels moist, then it’s not ready to bale. An easy test to do to see if hay is ready and bend it in half. If the hay is still wet, it won’t make any crunching sounds. If the hay is ready, it will make a crunching sound and snap almost. Do this test with the hay at the bottom of your windrow.

If the hay it still moist, you have two options:

  1. You can use a tedder to turn over hay and to help it dry faster.
  2. You can wait a bit longer to let it dry.

The advantage of using a tedder is that your hay will dry faster. The disadvantage is by tedding you will lose material in turning over your hay.

If you wait longer, then time and the weather will be your problem.

How to bale hay?

small square baler

This is a picture of me using the small square baler attempting to get all the hay in the baler.

I didn’t do much baling because I was very slow at it, but I did do some when I was at the in-laws.

I noticed that you have to bale very slow in most cases. I was using a small square baler and the windrows were pretty big, so I had a hard time to keep the baler where I wanted it.

One choice you need to make if you’re baling rounds is, whether you want net wrap or twine.

This choice is largely dependant on your baler. Some balers can use both others only twine.

Advantages of using twine

  • Twine is very cheap. It runs around 30$ for 28,000 feet.

Disadvantages of using twine

  • Twine takes a while to wrap bales up. If you’re using a round baler, you will have to wait longer using twine.

Advantages of net wrap

  • Net wrap is faster than using twine. Even if you do two wraps, it’s quicker than twine.
  • Because you’re not spinning the bale as much, there is less loss when spinning.
  • Also, net wrap bales come out very neat and tidy, which can help if you’re selling hay.
  • Some suggest that net wrap can shed water better than twine.

Disadvantages of net wrap

  • Net wrap is more expensive than twine. It can be one dollar per bale whereas twine is cents.
  • Some farmers say that net wrap bales stick to frozen ground more than twine.

Storing hay

Bale autostacker

My father in law picking up the small squares in the field.

Once you’ve baled your hay you need to store it somewhere.

The best place to store hay is inside. Cover alls, or storage sheds work well.

If you don’t have storage space inside, you can use a tarp to protect your hay outside.

A big concern when you’re storing hay is heat. You need to be very careful how you store you hay. If you bunch hay bales together too much, your hay will heat up. So, provide space for the heat to escape.

Final thoughts

Hay is a lot of work but the rewards are well worth it. I mean without it, many animals wouldn’t have anything to eat.

Do you have an insight on hay? Leave a comment below.


Technology and farming – what about the smaller farms?

technology and farming

Sprayer from the Ottawa Farm Show

With each passing day technology progress more and more.

It’s crazy what we are able to do now versus what were able to do ten years ago. It seems like technology moves at a break neck pace.

Is technology good for farming?

This is something that I think about every now and again because I see two sides of the coin.

I see those farmers who can afford things like Trimble Autosteer, then you have the smaller farmers who have a hard time putting food on the table. It seems like two extremes.

Technology allows bigger farms to increase their yields and improve seeding and fertilizing. This is great, but what about those farmers who could benefit from that technology?

Also, with things like GMOs many people wouldn’t consider technology to be a good thing, at least in that department. GMOs is a topic for another post altogether though.

How do smaller farms get technology?

You could get a loan from the bank to buy new technology to improve your farm’s productivity, but then you owe the bank a hefty chunk of change. Also, you have to consider whether that new technology will provide enough of return on investment to merit its purchase.

I think this is the type of balance smaller farms have to deal with all the time.

One creative way to get funded to buy some technology is through Indiegogo and Kickstarter. I’ve read about cases where people funded a new project on their farm through these programs.

Now I’m not an expert when it comes to these platforms, so I am not sure how far you could take it. What I mean is, I’m not 100% if you could fund new technology through these methods.

Final thoughts

Technology can help farms increase yields and production. This equipment is affordable to larger farms but not always to smaller ones.

These days, farmers must be creative in their approach to getting new farm equipment. Think about solutions like crowdfunding.

What do you think? leave a comment.