Monday, July 8, 2013

A Different Harvest

You can't see it that well in this photo, but it does show baled hay sitting at the edge of a field, which we'll use next winter for feeding our cattle. I loved the sky. Taken June 26, 2013.

In Kansas, wheat harvest gets the headlines. It's featured on the nightly news. It's the subject of multiple newspaper articles. Rightly so, since Kansas is, after all, the Wheat State.

But we're in the midst of another kind of harvest on the County Line these days. Randy and Jake are working on swathing, raking, baling and moving the second cutting of our alfalfa hay crop.

Hay has been sparse the past two summers in an exceptional drought. Last year yielded 466 big round bales total all summer. This year, after our first cutting of alfalfa, we had already stockpiled 403 bales. Last week, Randy began swathing "round two," or the second cutting.
We use a pull-type swather, which cuts the alfalfa off at the base of the plant, and "spits" the hay out of the back end as it goes through a crimper, leaving it in windrows. Crimping helps the hay dry more quickly. 
The windrows are left to dry down. If the hay is baled wet, it can mold and won't be as valuable for feeding to our own cattle or for selling. The top photo below shows hay in single windrows.
Freshly-swathed hay smells as good as it looks. The butterflies (or moths) dart among the blossoms, along with their yellow counterparts, lighting and lifting off with as much traffic as a busy airport.
On Friday morning, after letting the hay dry down, Jake raked two windrows together into one larger windrow, which speeds up baling. Randy was baling in the same field. He drove down the center of the raked-together windrows, drawing the hay into the machine. Once the monitor indicates that there is enough hay for the bale, Randy stops and the baler has to sit and do its work, wrapping the bale in net wrap. Then it dumps out the round bale.
Jake then moves the bales to the end of the hay fields ...

... where the guys will use them to feed our cattle this winter. 

We got a little quarter inch of rain Saturday morning, which made it too wet to bale. Randy baled yesterday morning before church and is back on the tractor baling again this morning. Wheat harvest may be over, but it's on to the next kind of harvest.


  1. Your hay fields look nice! I just love the smell of fresh cut hay. :) They are onto the 2nd cutting of alfalfa around here too. We feed 4x4x8 bales to our cows. They haven't started wheat harvest here. They usually start that around here in a few weeks. You guys are done with wheat already?

    1. We started wheat harvest June 21 and finished July 6, so it didn't seem like "already" to us. :-) Actually, it was a little later than normal this year. I guess that's how you get "averages." This year is a much better hay year after two years of exceptional drought. We are still classified as being in a drought, but it's amazing how a little timely rain helps. Good luck with yours!

  2. The first picture is stunning, Kim! Great capture.

    We baled all day Saturday and got caught up to the swather. J almost got all the oats cut the same day. Early Sunday morn we got .30" and another .30" last night. Hot and humid this afternoon. Will see what tomorrow brings.

    We are glad for the rain, even with hay down. We can see the corn change almost daily. These showers will help a lot.

    We need all the hay we can get as we only get one cutting a year. Happy second cutting to you on the County Line!

    1. Yes, we didn't turn down the 0.25" of rain Saturday AM either. It's going to be much hotter here this week, so the corn will probably start to stress. (People might, too!) It's fair time next week, so it has to be hot then, right?! Many years, we get a 3rd cutting as well, though not the past two summers. We'll see what happens this year. Have a good week, Robyn!