Chopping Hay

This hay has bloomed and is more than ready to be harvested.

Rain,  rain, go away!  For at least a week, please!  Two weeks would probably be asking too much… but we’d certainly appreciate it!!

The first step in harvesting hay is mowing it.

When you are trying to make hay in Iowa, the weather is often the enemy.  Lately, we have been stuck in a horrible pattern of rain every single day for the past 3 weeks or so.  It takes at least two dry days to get any hay harvested.  If we were trying to bale it, we’d need at least 3 days of nice sunny windy low humidity days.

So, we have been struggling along all summer, mowing patches of hay here and there, and then rushing to get it chopped before the next round of storms moves in.  Thank goodness we bought a better chopper this year that allows us to get more done in less time.

So, for those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about… here’s the simple process of making hay:

Mowing down the hay into wide swaths so it can dry out.

Once hay is mature (probably about knee to waist high, right before it blooms) it is time to mow it.  The tractor pulls a big mower, called a haybine, that cuts the hay and lays it in a swath (a wide path of cut hay).  It is a lot like a great big lawn mower, except it’s purpose is to cut the hay and lay it down as gently as possible.

Had to steal this picture from the internet, as I never got a chance to get one of my own. The rake gathers the wide swaths of hay and piles it into a trail (called a windrow) to finish drying.

The hay then lays for a day or so, and can be raked with a tractor and rake to turn it over and combine two or more swaths  into one larger windrow (a more narrow pile of hay in a long trail).  Raking helps the hay to dry and also saves time when the chopper or baler picks it up.

The chopper picks up the hay in front, sends it through the machine which chops it up, and then blows it out the pipe on the top into the wagon being pulled behind it.

If the hay is being chopped, we will pick it up with the chopper as soon as it is raked.  Hay doesn’t have to be very dry to be chopped and stored in a silo.  The chopper picks up the hay and chops it into little pieces then blows it into a wagon called a chopper box, that is pulled behind the chopper.

Tractor pulling a chopper box in to the silo, where the hay will be unloaded and stored to feed the cattle over the winter.

My hubby climbing the silo to make sure the silage is filling it properly. He does this often, he has no fear of heights when climbing, but take him on a ferris wheel and he most likely will break out in a sweat and puke.

When the chopper box is full, the person driving the chopper flips a switch to unhook the wagon.  Another person will bring an empty box with a tractor for the chopper to hook up to, and take the full wagon to be unloaded into the silo.   It usually takes about 3 tractors pulling chopper boxes to keep up with the chopper.

There is a lot of room in the cab of the chopper for Hazel to explore. We just lay a blanket down and she loves to watch the hay going into the chopper.

Once the hay is harvested, it will grow back and we will be able to get another crop in about a month.  We can usually expect to get 3 crops in a year, 4 if we are lucky.  Hay serves a few purposes on our farm.  It provides forage for all of our cattle and it’s extensive root system helps to conserve the soil on our hilly farms.  So, although it can often be a frustrating crop, it is worth the headache.


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] the corn up, it blows the little cattle M & Ms into a chopper box being pulled behind it.  (See this post about chopping hay to refresh your memory as to what a chopper box is and does). Once full, the chopper box is then […]

  2. […] in to more manageable, comfy bedding.  Next they are gathered in to windrows with the rake, the same way hay is.  Then the baler, pulled behind a tractor, is driven over the top of the windrows,  picks them […]

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