The Symphony of Haymaking Equipment

Haymaking is a combination of both a nuisance science and art – a symphony. Each piece of equipment is its own musical instrument. The equipment used in this process each play a certain role to strike the right chord.

“One of the more important things to take into context is when you look at a piece of machinery, how does it feel in your overall operation?,” asked Jordan Milewski, brand marketing anager with New Holland. “If you have an orchestra playing and one instrument is out of tune, the music doesn’t sound very good.”

To make it all happen, the haymaking equipment used in this process each play a certain role to strike the right chord:

The mower section

Akin to a lead soloist, the mower sets the tone to get things started, or in other words, cuts to the chase. “Whether you want to cut 6 feet or 20 feet at a time, you’re going to have to mow that material and cut it down,” said Greg Pinckney, vice president and owner of Auburn, New York-based Main & Pinckney Equipment, Inc. “With dry hay, you have to work with Mother Nature to get that hay dry. There are a couple things that will do it: sunshine and dry air.”

Depending on the animal, farmers must achieve a perfect balance between your mower and other equipment.

“Ultimately, if you buy a new mower conditioner, make sure that it is sized to work with your rake and capacity of your baler,” Milewski said. “If you cut too many acres down from your capacity to bale, you have a much greater weather risk.”

Tedders and rakers

Tedding and raking equipment promote the drying of the hay, as the bass and drums section provides the backbeat and tone for a band’s sound. The two go hand-in-hand in helping the hay dry.

“They are the tools that we use in the orchestra to get that done. We have to spread that hay out. The more that it is spread out on the ground the faster it will dry,” Pinckney said.

Depending on where you live, you’re still at the mercy of mother nature. “If you’re in Arizona, it can dry quite quickly,” Pinckney explained. “In New York state, doesn’t always dry quick. If the sun is out and the breeze is blowing, we’re in good shape. But if it’s cloudy for three days straight, we’re out of luck.”

Back up balers

Once the drying is complete, it’s time to package your hay for later use akin to preparing the backup singers in a group to complete the musical sound.

“With forage we feed for cows, the quality of material never gets better from the point you cut it. It only gets worse. You want to take that hay and put it in a package someplace as quickly as possible.” Pinckney said. “Once we dry it out, spread it, dry it, we got to rake it back together. The baler pulls it back in. That is what’s packaging it essentially.”

Like backup singers, you have the tenors and bass voices. Balers also come in varieties. Notably, square and round bales are used depending on function and preference. Round bales are becoming more popular, Pinckney noted. “My kids call them cinnamon buns or marshmallows when they see them on the field,” he said. “Put it in a roll, then come along in a tractor to put it in your storage barn.”

Types of (hay) music

Like music has different genres, hay also comes in several forms. “When you are making hay, like making different types of music, you got dry hay, baleage or wet hay,” Pinckney said. “You got to have acreage and the field, plus you got to have whatever crop that you want to cut.”

A dry hay situation is different than baleage. In a baleage situation, the objective is for the product to stay green. It needs to be sealed with cellophane wrapper and made tight.

“When it is air tight, the anaerobic action starts to cook the product. It goes from green – in 23 days – to brown. It’s like going into an oven. And that’s what makes it more palatable for the animal,” Pinckney said. “That moist green heavy is what the cows like; some call it candy. They’ll eat the vegetables, but they like their candy.”

Band (equipment) changes

There are a lot of different avenues for farmers to use to get to the end product. With the right set of equipment, your haymaking duties are more efficient. However – like any underperforming band member – there’s always going to be time to make a change to your symphony lineup and bring in new equipment.

“It is necessary to upgrade the supporting cast of characters in your haymaking system to make sure you can fully exploit the capacity of that new purchase,” Milewski said.

Read more: Haymaking 101: Mowing, Tedding and Raking