The Art of Haying in Maine

The Art of Haying in Maine

by Caroline Wild, Farming Programs Assistant

I bet that many of you have driven by the farm recently and seen one of the farmers on a tractor out in the field putting up hay! However not all of you may know what we are doing and so I have put together a little overview.

Haying is an integral part of farming; harvesting the grass during the summer means that when the winter comes, and the animals can’t graze, you still have feed. Some farms without much pasture will buy hay from other farming operations. Other farms with lots of pasture hire a custom cutting team to come and put up hay for them. Yet others will put up all their own hay, and Wolfe’s Neck Farm is one of those places!

There are two ways to put up hay: as silage and as dry hay. There are advantages to both ways; silage is put up wet, is wrapped, and then ferments throughout the fall and winter. Dry hay is thoroughly dried and then baled. We put up both kinds, and I am going to take you through the steps:

Mowing is the first step to making any kind of hay. It literally mows the hay down so that it no longer grows. We have a machine called a mower conditioner, which is a special mower that cuts the grass and then sends the grass through two rollers to break the stems open so the water can evaporate.

Tedding is when the hay gets swirled around, thrown in the air and aired out. The tedder is simply (I say that, but it’s outwitted me several times!) 4 moving sets of fingers that picks the hay up and literally throws it in the air. You usually ted dry hay to continue breaking the stems and to let air in between the different pieces of grass so that it dries quicker. Silage is not tedded because you want to retain some moisture in the hay.

Raking is probably my favorite stage of haying because unlike tedding I am making something neater instead of messing it up! Raking determines how you are going to bale, so you have to think way ahead of yourself and plan out where you are going. I find it difficult, but the first time I raked a field all by myself it was an amazing feeling! There are two types of rakes that we use; a ground driven rake and a gyro rake. The ground driven rake cannot be lifted off of the ground, which adds an added challenge, whereas the gyro rake can be lifted up to make straighter windrows (the straighter the windrows are the less likely you are to break the baler! More on that soon). Both types of rakes use a circular motion with fingers to move the hay (much like a tedder) but there is a shield to stop the hay from going everywhere so that it is in a line. Usually you do not rake silage, just to save time, but you always rake dry hay so that the baler can pick it up more efficiently.

Baling the hay is what all the other steps lead up to; each step is planned to help make baling easier on the tractor. There are two types of bales and balers: a round baler and a square baler. Both have their advantages; round bales are better for cattle because cows eat more and there is more hay in a round bale. Square bales are best for smaller operations, horses, and some sheep and goat farms. We feed square bales to our sheep and goats all winter, round bales to our cows and sell both square bales and round bales. You cannot put up square bales as silage (or wet) bales; round bales can be silage or dry. The big white marshmallow looking things on the farm are wrapped silage bales.

Haying is a very time consuming process, but it is a very rewarding part of farming. You can literally see the feed for the next winter going into your barn, which gives you a feeling of security. WNF is selling dry round bales, silage round bales, and dry square bales for varying prices; if you would like to find out more information please call 865-4469 x105 and leave us a message.

These are our two balers (and two identical tractors!) The big 5600 Ford runs the round baler and the littler 3600 runs the square baler.


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