A Cowboy’s Faith: Prairie hay is baled – Osage County Online | Osage County News

A Cowboy’s Faith: Prairie hay is baled

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Make hay when the sun shines.”

Well, the prairie hay is all wrapped up in big round bales. Later than wanted and anticipated, but in the bale is better than grass standing in the pasture.

Still, earlier than decades ago when big round balers first came out and a custom operator did the hay baling. Between inclement weather and machinery breakdowns, then the native grass haying sometimes wasn’t finished until mid-September. It wasn’t of the highest protein quality but was much easier to handle than in small square bales as had been done previously.

When getting started in ranching, a three-point, seven-foot sickle mower was used on the John Deere 1020 tractor. A then brand-new John Deere side delivery rake accumulated dried grass into windrows.

A John Deere 7T (twine tie) baler dropped small square bales in the field to be loaded on the pickup. Most farmers had hayracks to load bales right from the baler, but such equipment was unavailable for a beginning rancher.

With 36 bales on the pickup driven to the barn, they had to be hand thrown and stacked in the loft. It was always hard work but more doable than for an old man a half-century later.

Nowadays, a fancy ranch-owned pull-type swather is operated by the ranch manager with a custom farmer wrapping up the bales.

The net-wrapped bales are then stored side-by-side to be ready for feeding cows throughout the winter and early spring. Tractor with frontend loader and pickup along with a trailer are used for the task.

Haying is a whole bunch easier than it used to be.

Prairie hay would have been put up earlier, but it was so dry, the manager was afraid of starting a fire. Swathers and balers both did start some dry pasture fires around the area.

Despite being baled later than anticipated, the prairie hay crop was about 25 percent larger than a year ago. Refreshing rains not only increased production, but also kept protein quality up.

“Make hay when the sun shines” means taking advantage of the chance to do something while conditions are good. “Opportunities only come every so often, seize the day, make every second count, the future is uncertain.”

Reminded of Proverbs 10:5: “Make hay while the sun shines is smart; go fishing during harvest is dumb.”

Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.

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