Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When To Mow Hay...

A friend asked me recently to do a post about baling hay...the "how do you know when it's ready to mow" part.  So, BP...this is for you!  :)

It's been about three weeks or so since we baled our first cutting of hay, so last week, Jim checked out the alfalfa fields at the other farm to see if they were ready to be cut again...

The grass you see in the field is orchard grass that was intentionally seeded along with the alfalfa...

It's grown so fast!  This was what Jim was looking for...the alfalfa is in what he refers to as "early bud stage".  The flower buds have formed, but it's not in full bloom yet.  This will make nice hay that is high in protein...

Here are a few buds that are in full bloom.  It's definitely time to mow now before the whole field is blooming...

He listened to the weather forecast, and it sounded pretty good.  If the hay was mowed on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and the forecast (which was for hot temps and sunshine all weekend with only a slight chance of thunderstorms) held out, it would be ready to bale on Monday...before the rain came on Monday night/Tuesday (today).

The hay was mowed, and the forecast held out!

On Monday morning, Jim raked the hay into windrows, exposing the hay on the bottom that was still a bit damp, to the sun, and preparing it for the baler to pick up....

The rest of the day got a bit busy, so I don't have any pictures of the actual baling or unloading.  (But if you look at the previous post about baling straw last Thursday and substitute the straw with hay, you'll get the picture!)  :)

We prefer to bale our hay this way.  It's labor intensive, but in our opinion, there's nothing better for a cow's rumen than good quality dry hay!  It can be challenging to work around the weather...if the forecast just isn't favorable (3 days of hot, dry sunshine), Jim might mow the hay and bale it at high moisture into round bales, wrapping it to preserve it.

So...two cuttings of hay are now complete.  Depending on the weather, we should get at least  three more cuttings off of the fields this summer...maybe even four.

For now, we'll enjoy the day of rain we're having today.  The kids can now "officially" enjoy their first "real" day of summer vacation!


  1. Don't you just love summer vacation? I love when hay gets baled around here. I love the smell with the the hay starts blooming. Nothing smells better I don't think.

  2. Good post Alica we will be doing hay after this wave of rain that is passing by the forecast is for 7 sunny days so we will see how it goes. Wish us luck I hope to be baling by Monday or Tuesday if My Hero cuts Friday or Sat. As you know this all depends on heat , humidity and unfortunately break downs and labour strikes( that may be me if I get tired and cranky baling) Wish us luck. B

  3. I always wondered. Dad never explained why, he just told us to go out there and mow.

  4. I always like reading about different aspects of the ag industry. Thanks for sharing your process!

  5. Wow, we feel fortunate if we get 4 cuttings of hay in a season.

  6. See what we learn through blogging! I didn't know that about the blossoms...
    Great post and I'm glad the weather cooperated for ya'll! Here's to four more cuttings! :)

  7. Great post!
    I can almost smell the fresh cut hay now :)

    Most folks are lucky to get 3 cuts of hay around here, and hay is also quite expensive.
    The price in our part of the country is $200.00 a ton!!

    Happy for your kiddos that summer vacation has begun.
    Hope it's a great summer for you all !!

    Smiles :)

  8. I have spend SO many hours on a tractor pulling a hay rake similar to that. I remember the importance of getting the field cut before the blossoms, before the rain, before the wind dried the crop out. So many things to consider. I'm glad everything went so well for you your harvest.

  9. I'm so envious. Your fields look so nice and green. My hay field is just crunchy to walk on. We're desperate for rain.

  10. Thanks A!
    Probably a stupid question, but why does the hay need to dry first? So it doesn't get moldy or to prevent a hay fire? Do you shrink wrap yours or store in a barn?

    1. Hi BP! Glad you found this! :)

      The hay needs to dry and cure, so it can be safely stored in the barn. You're right on both counts...if it were stored too wet, it could spontaneously combust and cause a barn fire. Also, if it's moldy, it's bad for the cows, and they won't eat it anyway!

      Ideally, we'd like to store all of our hay dry in the barn...we think that's the best for the cows. However...if the weather forecast doesn't cooperate, and it's time to mow the hay, we bale it when it's still a little wet into round bales and wrap it. The hay then ferments a bit, but doesn't spoil. That's what's in those marshmallows along the driveway! Stop over sometime and we'll show you the difference!


I enjoy hearing what you have to say! Thanks for your comments!