How to Make Hay From Start to Finish

posted on Friday, August 14, 2020 in Ag-Pro Companies News

Growing and baling hay on your own property instead of buying from other producers can save you money in the long run. And depending on your animal’s needs, that could really impact your bottom line, considering for instance how many hundreds of pounds just a few horses can eat in a week. It can also help you make a profit off land that would otherwise go unused. When beginning a new, small operation, many questions come to mind that range from wondering how to grow hay in the first place to what kind of equipment is needed for baling hay once you’re ready to harvest. Here are some of the basics you’ll need to know about how to make hay to get started.

The Crop

The major considerations for crop selection are your climate and soil circumstances of the pasture as well as the type of livestock you’ll be growing feed for. Different crops are better suited to different weather and soil conditions, so you’ll want to take care when researching which type to plant. Grass mixtures can also be an acceptable option for making hay so you may consider interseeding your pasture with a compatible variety. Getting in touch with your local county extension or nearby farmers can also be helpful in finding out regionally specific information. Then there’s the matter of animal preference and requirements. Some animals tend to be fussier with food choice, while others can get sick if they eat too much of the wrong thing. Pure brome grass for instance, can be a great and nutritious option for horses and weaned calves without causing upset stomachs. On the other hand, sheep would do better with a grass and alfalfa mixture. This is another area you’ll want to spend a fair amount of time researching before committing one way or another. Getting expert guidance from a veterinarian can also be helpful in narrowing down how to grow the right hay for your needs.

The Equipment

For a small hay operation, you’ll need a reliable compact or utility tractor with a dependable cutter, rake and of course a baler for baling hay at harvest time. A broadcast spreader is also handy to have available if you’re going to be planting your crop, as it can help with seeding and field preparation like fertilizing. Three of the most popular options for cutting include a rotary mower, sickle cutter and mower conditioners. However, we recommend using a rotary mower, also known as a disk cutter, for a smaller outfit. Some of the top benefits of this equipment are that they’re easier to service and maintain because they have the fewest moving parts and they can reach faster ground speeds, which means you can manage more ground in a day. This is especially important with how time sensitive harvesting hay is. Baling when hay is too wet could lead to your bales growing mold, while hay that’s been allowed to over dry can cause a loss in nutrients. Next up, you’ll want to procure a rake. An eight wheel V-rake is a great choice for smaller hay making operations. Rakes are helpful for two reasons: they help speed up your drying time and make easier collection possible for your baler by moving the hay into manageable windrows. A good rake will also allow you to access and turn the hay that’s been covered up and resting closer to the ground so it has a chance at drying correctly as well. Once the crop is ready, you can move on to baling. Though 4x5 balers are a favorite for many smaller producers, choosing the baling style that makes the most sense for your needs has a lot to do with your PTO, bale shape and size requirements as well as personal preference. It’s also important to keep in mind that balers generally have a lot of working parts so having easy access to a dealer for parts and service can make a world of a difference. All things considered, talking with an expert at your local showroom can be helpful in finding the baling equipment that is most suitable for your individual needs.
Once you’ve got your crop and equipment sorted out, you should be ready to start production. If you want to discuss the particulars of your operation with one of our hay experts, you can find contact information for your local Ag-Pro Dealership here.

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