Tractor Forum banner
1 - 20 of 26 Posts

Premium Member
3,786 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I ran across this excellent HAYING FAQ and with permission I have posted it here --- full credit to the author, Ronald Florence and others for their insight into the world of haying.

Here it is:

Frequently Asked Questions About Haying
Ronald Florence

1. Why grow hay? I can pick up all I need at $2/bale in the field.

There are at least three good reasons to grow hay:

- as a business;
- because you don't want your meadows and fields to revert to
woods, jungle, or desert;
- because you want some control over the quality of the feed
you give your livestock, and are willing to trade your labor
for a savings in cost.

Hay as a business is complicated and risky, requiring large
outlays for equipment and labor, and a steady market. When you're
buying, good hay seems scarce and expensive; when you're selling,
there always seems to be a glut. The rumors about hay going for
$110/ton always seem to apply to a different county.

This FAQ is for small farm and property owners who want to cut hay
from meadows and fields for their own use or for casual sale.
Cutting your own hay, either alone or in a cooperative with
neighbors or a custom baler, may not turn a profit, but it lets
you control the quality of the hay you feed your animals, and if
you have access to fields and haying equipment, growing your own
hay can also cut down on feed bills. Even if you don't feed
livestock, in some areas of the country builders and landscapers
pay as much as $3/bale for mulch hay used for erosion control.


2. What equipment do I need to cut hay?

Traditionally, hay is cut with a sickle-bar mower. A haybine,
either pulled by a tractor or a self-powered unit, combines the
mower with a reel that stands grass up for the cutter, a
conditioner that crushes the stems so the hay will dry faster, and
a windrower, which can be set to leave the cut hay in windrows or
spread out. Sickle-bar mowers cut like multiple pairs of
scissors. They do a good job on grass and legumes, but are
vulnerable to stones and stumps. You can rivet on a new knife in
the field, but the repair is time-consuming and the parts are
relatively expensive.

A newer machine for cutting hay is the disc-mower or discbine,
which cuts with small, replaceable, free-swinging knives on
whirling discs. The whirling discs are said to stand up lodged
(toppled) hay, and the free-swinging knives are less likely to
break on stones. Because the machines are less vulnerable to
breaking or clogging, you can drive faster with a disc-mower,
mowing more hay in less time. Replacing a knife is a quick job,
and the knives are cheap. Disc-mowers are messy, and usually have
a rubber skirt to confine the splashing juices.

It is also possible to cut hay with a modified brush hog. If one
side is removed from the brush hog housing, the cut grass will fly
out instead of staying under the housing to be chopped by the
whirling blades. A sickle-bar or disc-mower will do a much better
job: it is difficult to keep brush hog blades really sharp, and
the heavy blades hack the hay and knock off leaves.

Whether you mow with a 5-foot sickle-bar or a self-powered 14-foot
discbine, the mowing pattern is almost always the same. Because
the mower is offset to the right side of the tractor, you mow
clockwise in a spiral toward the center of the field, then mow the
last row around the edge of the field counter-clockwise. Most
mowers don't do a good job sweeping around a corner, so you
usually have to either back up at the corners with the mower
raised, or take a big loop around to position the mower for the
next leg.

Before haybines (mower-conditioners), some farmers used a separate
conditioner that was run over the field to crush stems and windrow
the hay after it was mowed. They will still work, and are often
available at auctions, but a separate conditioner means another
trip over the field with the tractor, which is time and fuel.
Most grass hays dry well without conditioning.


3. What equipment do I need to dry hay? What's the difference
between a a tedder and a rake? How do I use a hayrake?

Drying hay is a race against the weather. A light cutting of
grass hay will often dry in one good hot day. Heavy cuttings, and
especially alfalfa and clover, are harder to dry, especially when
the days are damp, cool, or short. Some farmers spray special
drying chemicals on their alfalfa as they mow it. In areas with
perpetual overcast skies, hay is sometimes dried on temporary
tripods made of three limbs laced together. Some English farmers
insist that tripod hay is the only really good hay, and in damp
counties they're probably right. On Norwegian hill farms, hay
used to be dried on staked wires. Fans and slatted floors or
screened tunnels through the mow can be used to dry hay that has
been baled or gathered early. Chemicals, fans, and tripods aside,
most farmers rely on tedders and rakes to aide the drying of their

A tedder turns hay to expose green surfaces and speed up the
drying. The early tedders were ground driven, and gently flipped
the hay; newer tedders are driven off the tractor PTO, and do a
fairly violent job of airing and scattering hay. Too much
tedding, especially late in the drying, can knock the leaves off
alfalfa and clover, which is much of the nutritional content of
the hay. If you're buying a tedder, try to get one that matches
the width of the windrows left by your mower. A fourteen-foot
wide tedder will take in two windrows from a seven-foot mower. If
hay is rained on soon after it is cut, running over the field with
a tedder will shake the water off the hay and minimize the damage.

If you are blessed with spells of dry weather, you may not need a
tedder. You still need a hayrake. Before hay is baled, it needs
to be raked into rows that the baler can follow. The most common
rakes are ground-driven pinwheels or side-delivery rakes.
Pinwheel rakes do a terrific job on long straight rows, but are
less effective on corners. Hay is normally raked twice. On the
first run, you rake the hay `out,' which with most rakes means
driving the field in a clockwise spiral. The tractor and rake end
up in the middle of the field. A few hours or even a day later,
you follow the spiral back out, driving in the opposite direction
so the hay is raked `in'. The final raking leaves room for the
baler and tractor outside the last row.


4. How do I gather the hay? Is there an alternative to baling?

Before balers, hay was routinely gathered loose, pitched onto a
wagon or an elevator (conveyor), and stored loose in the mow
(loft) of a barn. The loose hay would continue to dry in the mow,
and was fed out by pitching it down to the animals below. Loose
hay is a labor-intensive process and takes up a lot of space in
the mow.

You can also stack hay in the fields, in the traditional haystacks
of Swiss hill farms and fairy tales, or the enormous haystacks of
Montana range country. The bigger the volume of the haystack, the
better the hay inside keeps. Haystacks look great, but they're
hard to build, the hay is rarely high quality, and tossing a bale
in the feeder is probably easier than building a fence around the
stack and feeding animals with a pitchfork. Range haystacks are
built with custom-fabricated beaver-slides; huge tractors with
grabbers feed out the hay.

Most small farms use square balers. The baler can be adjusted so
bales weigh anywhere from 35-60 pounds. You can let the bales
drop on the field and go around later to pick them up; or bale
with a chute behind the baler, so that one or two people on a
following wagon can build a compact load of 120-200 bales without
bending over to pick up bales; or use a kicker behind the baler to
toss the bales into a wagon with sides and a back. A kicker and
special wagons make square baling a one-person operation, but the
equipment is expensive, and getting the wagon to fill well may
require soft, shaggy bales.

If you drop bales in the field, you can pick them up with two- or
three-person crews and pickup trucks, low trailers that let you
stack from the ground, or sleds low enough to let you sling the
bales on with hay hooks. Look hard enough at auctions and you may
be able to find an old bale-picker that picks up bales onto an

At the barn, you will probably want an elevator (conveyor) to take
bales up to the mow from your wagons or truck. Some are driven by
electric motors, others by the PTO of a tractor. For a large mow,
a second elevator rigged horizontally can be a big labor saver.
Some farms use a permanently installed horizontal conveyor near
the peak of the mow; as the bales move along the elevator, an
adjustable diagonal knocks them off into an empty section of the
mow. Rigged well, elevators can make unloading a wagon a one-man
job. When there is a lot of hay to be brought in and threatening
weather, even a mechanized setup is no substitute for lots of
hands and a tractor or big pickup (be careful with an import or
1/2 ton pickup on loaded hay wagons) to haul wagons back and forth
from the baler to the barn.

Round bales are a one-person operation. Years ago there were
round balers that produced bales of 60-100 pounds. Today, most
round balers produce bales of 750-2000 pounds. The bales are
either left in the field until they are used, sometimes covered
with a machine-applied plastic sleeve and lifted off the ground on
old pallets or tires, or they can be moved to a covered storage
area with a bale spike on the bucket-loader or three-point hitch
of a tractor. Round bales are labor-saving, both in baling and
feeding, but even when the bales are stored under cover it is hard
to get the same quality hay as small square bales. Recent
experiments suggest that the cost of constructing inside storage
for round bales can be amortized quickly with the reduction in
waste; an alternative, for beef cattle, is to spray the bales with
beef tallow. For animals that trample their hay, like sheep, round
bales require some thought in designing feeders.


5. What about a little meadow of less than an acre? Can I get hay
off it without a major outlay for equipment?

A small meadow can be hayed with no more equipment than a scythe,
a hand forage rake (wooden, with wood pins for teeth), and a
pitchfork to gather the loose hay on a cart, pickup, or wagon.
Cutting hay with a scythe takes skill: an old-timer can show you
how to adjust the scythe and keep it sharp, and how to cut hay
without exhausting yourself. For a slightly larger meadow, a
walk-behind sickle-bar mower would do a good job of cutting hay.
Some European manufacturers make small two- and four-wheeled
tractors with a sickle bar cutter in front, rather than extending
to the right, which makes them ideal for smaller fields.

If you have too much hay for a forage rake, but not enough for a
baler, you could gather loose hay with a home-built buckrake on a
bucket loader or three-point hitch. Books of older farm
implements can provide ideas, or you might be able to adapt an
older horse- or mule-drawn dump rake by shortening the drawbar,
tinkering with the hitch, and rigging a trip string that you can
operate from the tractor seat (unless you have a convenient
12-year old you can plunk on the rake seat to trip the rake at
each windrow). If you have a cooperative neighbor, you might be
able to cut and rake your meadow when he is haying his fields, and
arrange custom baling of your meadow.


6. How much is the equipment going to cost me?

New haying equipment is expensive. If you're handy with tools, or
buy carefully, you don't need new equipment for occasional haying
on a few fields. Many farms have part of the equipment they need,
like a tractor big enough for a baler. A 25HP tractor can run a
PTO-driven square baler. An even smaller tractor can pull a
gasoline-engine baler. If you're planning to pull wagons behind
the baler, especially on hills, you will need a more powerful and
heavier tractor. In either case, a live-PTO is a good idea on a
tractor driving a baler. You can often clear a clogged baler by
backing up, but if the PTO stops when you shift out of gear, it
may take a full-scale dismantling to clear the baler.

Used rakes, tedders, and balers are often available at auctions or
at implement dealers. You may find some odd-balls that are no
longer made, like three-point hitch side-delivery rakes and
ground-driven tedders. They will often do a good job on small
fields, as long as essential spare parts, like rake teeth and
knotter parts for the baler, are available. Even if you're an
experienced mechanic, it is probably a good idea to try to get the
manual with a used baler, to try it on some loose hay before you
buy, and to examine it carefully for wear on the knotter, the
flywheel bearings, and the knife. Get the owner or another
experienced user to explain the adjustments.

Haybines generally require a tractor with auxiliary hydraulics,
and many sickle-bar mowers only fit a particular model of tractor
because they require some special link to the drawbar or
three-point hitch to control the raising and lowering of the
cutter bar. A sickle-bar mower can be a versatile implement for
trimming fence rows and clipping pastures as well as mowing hay.
Make sure you can get replacement knives and stone guards for the

Used hay wagons (hayracks) are also available, especially if
you're willing to replace worn tires and rebuild wooden beds. It
is not a good idea to save money by putting auto tires instead of
heavy-duty implement tires on a wagon: a load of hay can weigh six

Cost? You can probably find a serviceable used baler for $500 to
$2500, depending on your mechanical skills, the area of the
country, and the season when you shop the auctions and implement
dealers. A used sickle-bar mower could be as cheap as $200; new
ones cost $1000 and up. A used hayrake can be had for $500. If
you hay with a friend or neighbor, you may not need even the
minimal equipment.


7. What does it take to convert my overgrown lot to a hayfield?

Hard work and patience. Once the field is clear of stones and
stumps -- which may require a bulldozer or backhoe and hours of
stone-picking -- do a soil test and add lime as needed to bring
the pH up to whatever your planned hay crop requires. Lime
migrates slowly in soil, so adding more than two tons/acre may
require a year or so of alternate crops before the pH is at the
required level. Once the pH is where you want it, you can either
disc the field or kill the existing vegetation with Round-Up and
plant no-till.

A heavy drag behind the disc will help level the field. To
control weeds, it sometimes works well to disc and plant an annual
crop, like buckwheat, oats, rye, or dwarf rape that you can later
disc in, perhaps with a heavy application of manure, before you
seed the hay. A dense stand of buckwheat will choke out weeds
that would overwhelm your new hay seeding and add to the tilth of
your soil when you disc it in; temporary crops like rape, turnips,
rye, or oats can provide pasture for animals or a quick cutting of
hay while they're helping get the field ready for seeding hay.

On a disced field, after you've applied the needed fertilizer, a
Brillion or other heavy seeder will do the best job on small
seeds. If you can't borrow one, you can broadcast from a
hand-carried Cyclone seeder or a three-point-hitch fertilizer
spreader. Increase the application rate over the seed bag
recommendation if you are broadcasting. Rolling broadcast seed
will probably provide the highest germination rate. If you don't
have a roller, disc lightly after broadcasting, or a pass with a
drag or branches will cover the seed.

For no-till seeding, you may be able to borrow the needed machine
from a local agricultural extension or soil bank office. It is
important to follow the instructions for early mowing or heavy
grazing to control weeds after no-till seeding.

Fall seedings work well, and provide hay the next spring. Some
farmers like to plant oats as a cover drop with spring or late
summer seedings. The fast-growing oats are supposed to keep down
weeds. Be sure to inoculate legume seeds to increase the
nitrogen-fixing ability of the alfalfa or clover.


8. What kind of hay should I plant?

Depends on location, climate, soil, and the intended use. Some
general observations:

- alfalfa (Arabic for `best fodder') is a high-yielding,
highly nutritious, and highly palatable legume hay. It requires
well-drained soils and a neutral pH. In some climates alfalfa hay
may be difficult to dry well without a haybine or conditioner to
crush the stems, it may be susceptible to weevils and other pests,
and for some livestock, like horses, alfalfa hay may be too
nutritious except as a supplement. Alfalfa fields generally have
to be reseeded every 4-6 years; it is often grown in rotation with
corn or other crops.

- clover hays (Red, Alsike, Ladino) are highly nutritious and
often highly palatable. They are hard to dry well and usually
require fairly neutral pH. Clover is often planted in combination
with a grass such as timothy, orchard grass, or brome grass. For
the first few years the clover will predominate; as the clovers
thin out, the grasses take over. Ladino clover makes terrific
pasture, but is low-growing and hard to mow. There is some
evidence that red clover retards ovulation in sheep, so it may not
be a good hay to feed breeding ewes.

- grass hay is generally grown in long-term fields. Some
grasses, like reed canary grass, will grow in wetter soils, but
may be less palatable to fussy animals. Timothy, orchard grass
and brome grass will turn brown and dormant in the middle of a hot
dry summer. Grass hays generally dry faster than legumes, so they
may be a better choice where haying weather is iffy. Some recent
research suggests that with proper fertilization grass hay can
have a protein content as high as legume hays.

- oats and other annual grasses can produce high yields of
nutritious hay. It may be more advisable as a rotation crop:
grain hay attracts mice and rats, and baling oats can be the
hottest, itchiest job in the world.

Extension and soil conservation service agents can often suggest a
good seed mix for your area and soil. Unless you have a good
reason to do otherwise, you may want to follow the lead of your
neighbors. If they grow mostly orchard grass, it may be because
timothy doesn't do as well in the area, or because local buyers
aren't interested in timothy hay. Trying to beat the odds --
alfalfa in a heavy acidic soil -- rarely works.


9. How much should I fertilize hayfields?

Depends on what kind of hay you're growing and how high a yield
you want. Fertilized hay is generally higher in total nutrients,
and feeding your animals fertilized hay can avoid some mineral
deficiencies. A soil test from a state agricultural extension
office or university lab will tell you the exact blend of NPK and
application rate to achieve best yields on your soil, and whether
you need to add lime or micro-nutrients. If you buy your
fertilizer in bulk from a blending plant, you can get the exact
mix you need, and save the extra cost and inconvenience of
paper-bagged fertilizer.

Grass hays need plenty of nitrogen. For highest yields, fertilize
grass hay twice, in early spring and again after the first
cutting. Excess fertilizer is a waste of money, and too much
nitrogen leads to lodging -- leggy hay that lies down and is hard
to mow. For `generic' hay from native grasses you may be able to
get by with no fertilizer at all: yields and nutrition will be
lower, but you probably won't need a tedder to dry the hay, and
lower yields may suit your available labor pool and hay needs.

For legume hays (alfalfa, clover, birds-foot trefoil), you can
usually get by with one application of fertilizer per year,
typically a blend like 0-10-40 with added boron. Mixed hay
(timothy and alfalfa, orchard grass and clover) is usually
fertilized to favor the legume.

Manure is good for a hayfield and will cut down on fertilizer
bills. If you don't have a manure spreader, you may be able to
borrow one once a year when you clean out your barn or barnyard,
or to hire a farmer to spread your manure. Winter, or after the
final cutting, is a good time to spread manure on a hayfield.
Soil tests immediately after you have spread manure won't be


10. When do I cut the hay? How many cuttings a year can I get?

The quality of hay, particularly the all-important protein
content, is determined in large measure by the stage of growth
when the grass or legumes are cut. For most hay, the later in the
bloom you cut, the greater the yield, but the lower the protein
content and palatability. Alfalfa hay can range from 20% protein
in a late vegetative state (before bloom) to 11% protein at the
end of the bloom. Timothy can go as high as 18% protein just
before bloom to as low as 6-7% protein in late bloom hay. For
mulch hay or livestock on maintenance rations, a late cutting is
fine. For high-production dairy animals, late-term or lactating
sheep, or hard-working draft animals, you may want the highest
possible protein, which means early cut hay. Unfortunately,
weather and other commitments don't always let you cut hay at the
optimum time.

In most areas of the country, grass hay can be cut twice,
sometimes three times, per year. The first cutting, in late
spring, generally has the largest yield. Some animals, like
sheep, prefer the tender stems of second or third cutting hay.
When a haybine or conditioner is used, first cutting hay may be
just as palatable as second cutting. Alfalfa can often be cut
four times, even when it is not irrigated. The last cutting
should either be after a frost, or well before the first frost, so
the plants have time to push nutrition into the root system for
the winter.


11. How do I beat the weather?

Pray, and watch the weather channel or pick up weather charts off
one of the Internet sites. In many parts of the country, weather
systems provide windows -- a period of 3-5 days of dry, crisp
weather between two fronts. The beginning of a dry window is the
time to cut your hay. Sometimes folk wisdom, like the feel of a
coming northwester in an arthritic knee, can predict haying
weather better than the charts.

Given a choice, waiting for dry weather and cutting the hay beyond
its peak is better than the risk of getting hay rained on. Rain
is not always the ultimate disaster for hay. Little harm comes to
hay that is rained on right after it is cut, then quickly dried
(see question 3). If your hay gets rained on late in the drying
cycle, either feed it out immediately, sell it to a neighbor who
can feed it out immediately, or bale it for mulch hay.


12. How do I tell good hay?

Sending samples to a lab will give you exact protein and TDN
measures. Failing a lab, good hay smells and looks good. The
best grass hay is usually silvery green in color. Brown hay was
probably cut too late or dried too long. Green hay is too wet to
store in a barn. It can be fed out immediately, but in a barn it
will rot, mildew, or possibly start a fire. The smell of good hay
depends on the grasses and legumes in the mix; hay that smells
dusty, mildewy, or over-ripe is probably no good. When hay is
curing in the barn, you can and should test it by putting your
hand deep inside bales. It should generate warmth for several
days after it is baled; excessive heating is a danger signal.

Before you bale hay, pick up a bunch and twist it tightly in your
fingers. If it is too dry to hold the twisted shape, it is
probably too dry to be really good hay. If it feels wet when you
twist it, it is too wet to bale. If there are trees around your
hayfield, the hay on the outside rows may dry slower than the
inner rows. Test different rows, and if the outside rows are too
wet to bale, start baling a few rows in, then return to the
outside rows after you've baled the rest of the field.

If you are buying hay, you probably want to examine and smell
samples from inside a few bales. Check bales from different
loads, or different ends of a load. Everyone who sells hay isn't
unscrupulous, but even innocent mistakes can burn down a barn or
leave your livestock sick.


13. Haying sounds too risky and too labor-intensive. Is there an
alternative to get good feed from a field or meadow?

In many areas, unpredictable weather and labor shortages make it
tough to bring in good hay, particularly in the spring. An
alternative is haylage, usually done with first-cutting alfalfa.
The alfalfa is mowed, conditioned, and windrowed by a haybine,
then left in the field to dry for anywhere from a few hours to a
day. A hay-chopper (a corn chopper with a haylage head) is then
run over the field to chop and gather the partially dry hay.
Stored in a silo or lined pit as haylage, it makes nutritious
feed. Haylage is probably only workable if you or a nearby custom
operator has the equipment.

Another alternative to dedicated hayfields is to combine a cutting
of hay with extensive pasturage of the fields. Many farms have
too much forage in the spring flush, followed by shortages during
the dry months. If your pastures are clear of stones and stumps,
you can take a cutting of hay in the spring, then use the fields
as a pasture in the dry months. In some areas you can cut down on
hay and manure handling by setting aside a field or two for
succession grazing to extend the normal pasture season. (See the
Pasture FAQ).


14. Is making my own hay really worth all the work?

Even if you only cut a small meadow and store the hay loose for a
pet animal, completing the cycle of old-fashioned farming --
manure from the animals fertilizes the hayfield, hay from the
field nourishes the animal -- is rewarding. If you own or can
borrow the equipment, and if family, neighbors, and friends add up
to the needed labor for timely baling and storage of hay -- haying
your land or rented land can provide the best possible feed for
your livestock at a good price, the pleasures of shared hard work
with friends, and the rewards of a cold beer or dinner after
bringing in hundreds or thousands of bales of good hay. If you
have to hire a bulldozer or backhoe to clear the land, buy
expensive equipment to do the haying, can't find the helping hands
when you need them, and have terrible luck with weather -- haying
may not be right for you.


15. Who wrote this FAQ? I'd like to be aware of regional and other
prejudices in the information.

Ronald Florence <[email protected]>, who raises Cotswold sheep in
Stonington, Connecticut is the author and responsible for most of
the prejudices. Additional information was provided by James
Meade <[email protected]> of Iowa City, Iowa; Bernie
Cosell <[email protected]> of Pearisburg, Virginia; Spencer
Yost <[email protected]> of Winston-Salem, North
Carolina; Mark Kramer <[email protected]> of Boston,
Massachusetts; and Dale G. Watson <[email protected]> of
the University of Missouri Extension Service.

1,372 Posts

I helped our neighbor stack about 200 bales of hay he had cut and baled. It was the first time I had done that. It is fun to watch him work the 15 to 20 acres across the road. He just planted winter wheat and it is about 3" tall right now. He will combine it in the spring and then bale the straw and pick that up. This has been a little bit of a rant, but I enjoy seeing how it is done. I will probably help him out picking up the bales after he cuts the wheat this spring. It is good exercise and it helps him out!. :party:

65 Posts
Nice post

Though I disagree with a few things that were said, it was a very interesting post. Maybe the reason I disagreed on a few things is because of location of the authors and myself. All in all, they are right on most things.


Tractor Lover
4,461 Posts
Re: Nice post

Originally posted by red-n-green

Though I disagree with a few things that were said, it was a very interesting post. Maybe the reason I disagreed on a few things is because of location of the authors and myself. All in all, they are right on most things.

What do you do different and why?

65 Posts
This is the quote that I disagree with most.

" Hay is normally raked twice. On the first run, you rake the hay `out,' which with most rakes means driving the field in a clockwise spiral. The tractor and rake end up in the middle of the field. A few hours or even a day later, you follow the spiral back out, driving in the opposite direction so the hay is raked `in'. The final raking leaves room for the baler and tractor outside the last row."

In my opinion, it is best to cut, tedder, rake and bale all in the same direction. Sometimes this is not always possible but when you do this, it keeps the stems to the outside of the bale. This in turn save from losses due to leaves being on the outside of the bale. The stems also hold the bale together better being on the outside. And when speaking of round bales, this helps shed water better if you are not storing hay in a covered environment. I generally only rake once. You stir up more dirt and get more leaf shatter the more you rake. This is especially true with V-rakes where the tines run on the ground.

I don't actually disagree with his comments on teddering but I run the tedder as soon as I cut a field. The wetter the hay is, the less shatter you get. I try to tedder early in the morning or at night when the dew is on the hay. I will also run the tedder a second time if the hay is really rank and needs drying time for the bottom. I think the tedder does less damage than the rake when used properly. If the hay get rained on when already raked, I will run a tedder over it again. But if the hay is teddered when it rains, there is little if any need to tedder again.

I will read over the post and see if there is anything else I can comment on.


I have included a picture of my tedder for anyone who may not know what one is. They are commonly used in the south where humidity is a big problem.


Premium Member
3,786 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I already reserved a spot with red-n-green on the 2004 haying season for a front-row seat on his farm! So I will tell you first hand what it is like! :D Red-n-green, post more pics of your haying machines etc. Do you produce round bales only? Inquiring minds want to know.


1,542 Posts
Jay, I suspect that some of the differences are regonal, but I agree on always going in the same dirrection. Here in the east coast, we have a hard time getting hay dry enough to worry about shatter. We often ted the hay out a couple of times, and plan to rake only once, but do give a second run if the bottom isn't drying well.

This seems like a good thread to post some pics of our haying gear. This pic is me mowing hay with a 495 Case-IH, pulling an 1190 IH haybine.

<img src=>

1,542 Posts
I guess I haven't uploaded the raking picture yet, so here is one of the round baler dumping out a finished bale.
<img src=>

1,542 Posts
And the greatest thing about round bales is how you handle them. Our bales weigh about 800-1000 lbs, and contain 18-22 square bales, try picking one of those up!!:hide:
<img src=>

524 Posts
Im in the works now to get some #1 Vaughn Bermuda Grass started for hay this next year. I have my FSA meeting Dec 28th to get the ball rolling. It is a lot of work but thats what Farming is, its WORK.

4 Posts
We hay about 190 acres of pure Alfalfa here in Southern MI. We have never had a need to ted the hay, but we mow with a 1411 discbine and rake with a 10 wheel v rake. But then again we have pretty good weather for such projects. most of the time.

Premium Member
1,438 Posts
There are a few things I disagree with, too! First thing is - you can't lump all 25 HP tractors - and balers - into the same pile. A 25 HP might RUN the baler, but most are too light to do the job. You also have to take into account your field. If it's flat, you have a better chance of using a small tractor, then if it's hilly. The light weight of a small HP tractor comes into effect when you are trying to go down hill....

Live PTO - Growing up, we baled with an IH "H" with out live PTO. I can't remember EVER "plugging the baler". It's all in learning how to cnstruct your windrows, driving speed, and paying attention. Sure, it's EASIER with LPTO, but not a "must have".

Cost - I bale my own hay, and do it for a LOT less then $2 a bale.

Cost of machinery - I looked at used equipment for about 2 yers before I bought. I already had a tractor, so didn't need that. Auctions and farm sles are YOUR FRIEND. Check out what lay behind an old timer's barn.

Baler - I found a good New Holland 273 for $300. There really isn't a lot of maintenance on a baler. The main thing is - you GOTTA either store them inside, or cover them. There are things in there that don't take kindly to rust.

Rake - look around. I peered into farmer's "back 40" as I drove around the countryside (it's amazing what you find there). One day, I spotted an older, ground driven, side delivery rake. It had been sitting in this field for over 30 years. It's crime? It bacame too small for the guy's haying operation. I bought it for $35, and hauled it home. It was missing a few teeth, and needed rear tires. I threw some tractor tires /rims I had laying around on, and ran it around the hayfield. We had baled 3 days before this - and used my neighbor's Reel Rake - I was pulling hay out of the corners and other places his rake had left.

Raking - It's an ART. There is no "This is how you HAVE to do it". Everyone's field - and hay - is different. I don't rake like a "normal" person would - I don't go around in circles and rake in a pattern. I follow the shape of my field and rake so baling is easier. You need to learn how to build the windrows, too, it's different for a square baler, then it is for round. Also it can vary between baler MANUFACTURERS and even balers of the same kind. Learn your equipment and go from there. It won't take long to figure out ground speed, either.
Some guys don't like "ground driven" rakes. I do. I can get hay out of the corners with a GD rake just as good as a PTO model. Here again, LEARNING is what's important.

Hay rack - Keep digging! I found a set of running gear for free, hauled it home, and built a floor on it. I used all salvaged lumber from a shed I had torn down for a neighbor. It cost me about $20 for bolts. As for tires, It has 4 bias pickup tires (used). Never had a problem. While a load of hay MIGHT weigh 6000 pounds, you need to remember that all of the weight is not on each tire.

Sickle bar mower - Ok, I have a New Holland Haybine, but I use my sickle bar, too. One thing you need to be aware of with sickles is that - even when sharp - they don't do well in fine grass. Heavy stemmed grass like brome, they chomp right through, fine stemmed stuff like Red Top, clogs them up.

Haybines - I found my NH 469 Haybine for $300. It works extremely well. There are HUGE differences in how haybines work. I've run John Deere, IH, Heston, New Holland and and "off brand" I can't remember. Of ALL of them, the New Holland's run the best. They have a design that allows them to "Float" over obsticales in the field without gouging. All of the othe manufacturers float to some degree, but New Hollands do it best. It's personal prefference, but that's what I've found.

You also don't need to pull a rack behind the baler, or have a kicker. They make fancy "accumulators", but that's just one more piece of fancy equipment. I have a homemoade "Bale Basket" that collects the bales behind the baler. When it gets full, you pull a cord and it empties. After baling, you only need to stop at each pile to load. My wife and I can load, unload and stack 100 bales in about 45 minutes, and I walk with a cane.

Fertilizer - You need to figure out what your ground needs. I usually collect the manure from my goats, chickens, and cows, and spread it over the hay field. I used the same Nitrogen fertilizer used for corn on the hay. Your local Extension Agent or CO-OP will tell you the rate. I didn't put as much on since I had manure.

As for the manure spreader - I found two JD model "L" machines in aa hedge row. I paid $20 for them and litteralt - drug them home. I spent a couple weeks and about $25 in hardware and have one up and running (that was 3 years ago. I toss a few grass, wildflower, clover, etc, etc, seeds in when I spread the manure. It does two things, spreads the seed rather well, and gives them a head start.

A lot of people tell new hay makers that they just CAN'T make hay for less then they can buy it. Sometimes this is true, mostly due to the size of the guy's land. Most people are told that the equipment costs are too high - and that you just GOTTA have new stuff. Be "color blind" and open to machines of different makes. I have Ford, New Holland, Deerborn, John Deere, and MF. Figure out what is best for YOU.

In short, you CAN make great hay cheaply, if you plan ahead. You don't need new, fancy, or even "easy" equipment. Chose yur machines well, take care of them, and they will work for you for YEARS to come.

The most important piece of equipment is YOU. Learn your equipment and learn your FIELD.
  • Like
Reactions: bmaverick

4 Posts
On that note we are mostly red exept for our Square baler. It's a 24T john deer baler and its about as good as any one of them out there. You can find them really cheap at auctions. It is a talent to figure out how they work but once you do you can make some really good bales.

Premium Member
1,438 Posts
Yeah, the 24T was a good baler. I like the 14T better, and it's more suited to a smaller operation. I saw a MINT condition one (the PAINT wasn't even faded or scratched) go at an auction 2 years ago for under $200. I know the guy who uses it. He's put about 2500 bales through it so far, without skipping a beat.

14 Posts
hay eq came home today

well we bought a 14T JD bailer & JD sidedelevery pto rake today
plan on useing the old dearborn sickle this year see how it goes
after combineing the sead

862 Posts
My Grampaw used to have a New Holland, don't know the model but it had Wissconson motor on the bailer and had a verticle plunger and big needdles that tied the bailes. During hay season I rember the sound KA- CHUNG KA- CHUNG KA-CHUNG that bailed many uh bale. I miss My Grampaw and those sounds

Premium Member
1,438 Posts
I FINALLY got my hay field cut for the first time this past week. Finished on Thursday, and over the weekend we got 4" of rain. I still have some at the neighbor's to do, but this week ain't looking good.....

35 Posts
Some things are defiantly a regional thing. I only remember a handful of times ever having to rake and it was with alfalfa during a wet year. I must say when I read about the square bales I cringed. When my dad and I still put up squares we would stack close to 3000 bales in our Quonset. Now I use a 1270 Hesston swather and a 664 new Holland baler. Ahh the beauty of hydraulics!
1 - 20 of 26 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.