Making Hay
Week of August 10th, 2003 | The weather was dry.

Large rectangular baler.

Large rectangular baler.

Hello! Having livestock, crops, and a feed business keeps a farm family very busy! My sister, Jolene, turned 20 years old on Monday. She and Mom spent the afternoon in Waterloo doing some shopping and out for dinner.

This past week a researcher from Iowa State University started a trial with a group of pigs on our farm. The purpose of this research is to examine the effectiveness of two herbal feed treatments used to control parasites in hogs. One group of the pigs are eating the regular feed that we make now, and the other half are eating the same kind of feed, but that feed has a newly developed herbal added that the company believes will improve control of these parasites. I helped the researchers catch and weigh each pig. Then we placed a numbered ear tag in each pig's ear. They are living in separate pens in our barn and we check on them twice a day. This project will continue for a few weeks until the products have a chance to do their work.

We finished the hay season this past week. We had 40 acres of hay baled and put away in the hay shed. It will be used for cattle feed this winter.

A hay baler is a machine that is pulled by a tractor. After hay or straw is cut, dried, raked into windrows, and dried a little more, a hay baler picks it up and puts it in a bale. A baler has teeth, like a hay rake, that picks the hay (or straw) up off of the ground. Then, forks move the material to the plunger. The plunger compresses it into square pieces. It keeps doing this, stacking the square pieces, until it completes the correct size of the bale. While the plunger compresses the pieces, it pushes the bale. The bale is pushed into twines, or strings, and is knotted. (The size of bale determines the number of strings. The large square bales have 4 strings and small bales have just two). When it is knotted, a device activates the counter. The baler then records an accurate count of the number of bales made. The bale is then pushed (by the plunger making more bales) up a chute. A hayrack is pulled behind the baler and a farmer will pick the bale up and stack the bales on the hayrack. These bales are called small rectangular bales.

Usually, we make 50-pound small square bales. With that size, we can stack up to 150 bales on one hayrack. We only bale our straw like this. This year, Dad and I baled 300 bales of straw. We took turns loading bales and driving the tractor. Loading bales is a lot of work; driving the tractor is easy. (I'd prefer driving.)

We have hay bales and straw bales made in a different way, too. We hire this to be done since we cannot afford this size of baler. This baler picks the hay or straw up in the same way and is plunged the same way, but the bales are much larger. The bales are so large, that you have to have a loader to move them! Instead of two twines, these bales have four. They are placed on the ground and picked up later. They are called large rectangular bales. They are 3 feet by 3 feet and are 7 feet long. Sometimes, we have 6-foot bales made and even 8-foot long bales made! (It depends on the storage building.) Usually, I load them up and haul them from the field to the storage building and Dad stacks them in the building. Using hayracks, I can stack 16 bales per rack. We have four hayracks and the loader can move two bales at one time. (If the weather is turning bad and your desperate, we can move three bales on the loader.) So, we can move about 66 large rectangular bales at one time. It takes about an hour for Dad to unload that many bales. Straw is a little lighter, so if the weather is turning bad, we can put 17 bales on one hayrack and three bales on the loader. That's a total of 71 bales of straw moved at one time. This is a VERY MAXIMUM load for our hayracks.

The hay shed, (a hoop building), can hold 600 large rectangular bales of hay and the straw shed, (machine shed), can hold about 300 large rectangular bales of straw. Small bales, stored in a shed or barn, are moved with a conveyor. A farmer places the bales from the hayrack onto the conveyor. A conveyor moves the bale inside of the shed and another farmer stacks the bale by hand. If moving the bales above ground (second or third floor of a barn or building) an elevator is used. The conveyor is run by an electric motor and a tractor runs an elevator. We do not bale small rectangular bales of hay any more since our farm is set up for large ones. We do have small bales of hay left up in our hayloft (second floor of our barn). We are using these up so they don't get too old.

Fourteen small rectangular bales can make one large rectangular bale that is 7 feet long.

Farm Fact: We rake hay with moisture content of about 40%. We bale the hay when the moisture is less than 20%. This is a proper moisture level, so that when baled, the hay won't spoil.

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