Thursday, July 22, 2021

Hay You!


Randy went to the hay auction this week to buy bait hay to entice our cow-calf herd as we gather them off summer pastures this fall.

I was there to people watch. 

We both got what we were looking for.

My favorite people to observe were the kids who arrived at the sale with their daddies ...

... especially the little Amish or Mennonite girls. (It's probably fitting that the photo of this little bare-footed darling was blurred, so she couldn't be identified, even though I was initially disappointed.)

I listened as the two Amish dads shifted seamlessly between English and Pennsylvania Dutch as they visited with one another - one waiting to sell hay and the other waiting to purchase.  

Another little curly-haired little girl had her pink cowboy boots on. That seemed a more sensible choice than bare feet to me in the sea of prickly hay.

These two young entrepreneurs - likely brothers - did their own bidding on a stack of hay. There was quite a negotiation going on.

And I imagined that these two guys treat the hay auction like the coffee shop: "How much rain did you get?" "What do you think of the price of corn?" "What do you think about that heat wave that's coming?"


There were a couple of dogs in attendance who did not leave the auction as best of friends. There was a brief time out from the auctioneer as the dogs yipped at one another.

Who knew there would be such a crowd? There were plaid-shirted farmers. There were cowboy hats and seed company caps. The variety didn't end with the people. There was brome hay. There was alfalfa. There was teff. There were small bales, big square bales and a few big round bales.

Most Tuesdays this summer, the hay auction takes place outside the South Hutchinson sale barn before the sale ring opens for cattle later in the morning.  

 We got there early to look over the selection brought to the auction by those who had bales to sell. 

After scoping out the hay that peaked his interest, Randy wanted to visit the sale barn cafe for a cinnamon roll. Alas, there were no cinnamon rolls that day.  But the sign made me smile. 

It's not the only sign of interest. A vintage sale barn sign decorates a hallway.

So why would we need to buy hay when we raise hay? In fact, we grow alfalfa and sudan, both of which we bind up in big round bales and feed to our cattle. Randy was bidding on small square bales of hay to use as "bait hay." (That's an oxymoron, too: The "square" bales are actually rectangular. Hmmm - That's what they're called anyway.)


The small bales come in handy for my role in calling cattle into the corrals to bring them home from summer pastures or to entice them to change locations during the winter. It's a little tough to toss those 1,500-pound big round bales, don't you think? A 60-pound bale works better. (And let's get real: I'm not tossing the whole bale myself either. I end up pulling chunks from the bale for enticement purposes.)

I leave the whole bale tossing to my favorite farmer. He's been doing that since junior high days. Growing alfalfa has always been part of the crop rotation for Randy's family. Back when Randy was a child, they used a sickle mower which laid the hay flat. Then, they would rake the hay. Since they didn't own a baler, a neighbor would bale it into square bales. Then, Randy, his brother and dad would pick up the hay from the field.   

Randy with his hay crop back in high school
After Randy's junior year at K-State, he purchased his first swather. Then, during his senior year, he and his dad purchased their first round baler. They haven't produced small bales since that time, so periodically, Randy purchases some through an auction or from another producer who has extra. 

So these days, he isn't bucking bales in a whole field. As auction bidder No. 618, he nodded his head to the auctioneer and purchased two different piles of alfalfa hay, totaling 16 bales.  

Besides looking for quality hay, he chose a couple of piles closest to the driveway for easier loading. Always thinking, my farmer! I'm always thinking, too. I could say I forgot my gloves. But, honestly, Randy didn't ask me to help, and I didn't volunteer. I took pictures instead.
He was still smiling when he was done.
The whole auction was over in about 35 minutes. And so was my time people watching.


  1. What an interesting morning! I just love Randy's smile. Does it ever leave his face?

    1. He's a pretty happy guy. Yes, it leaves when there are equipment or cattle problems. And I see his exasperated face when dealing with technology - ha!