A Cowboy’s Faith: Time to make hay – Osage County Online | Osage County News

A Cowboy’s Faith: Time to make hay

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Nearly every farmer and rancher in the Midwest had the same philosophy during the second week of June.

Hay harvesting equipment of all sizes and shapes was in the fields. Enthusiasm dampened when weather forecasters predicted rain and morning showers forced machinery back into storage units.

Indecisiveness replaced excitement as farmers didn’t know whether to mow the forage for hay or wait for a dry day.

Certain first cutting alfalfa fields have already been wrapped up in bales. But most tame grass fields are just showing enough yield to justify harvest.

While farmers are anxious to get hay harvested for winter feed supply, they sure don’t want it to get wet. Quality of feed rapidly deteriorates, and most livestock don’t like or readily consume the lower quality feedstuff.

While harvesting forage to make hay for livestock operations is necessary, it’s not one that farmers and ranchers anticipate doing. Still harvesting forage to be made into winter feed is considerably easier than it used to be. As recent as six decades ago, making hay was a six-step process.

The grass had to be mowed typically with a cycle bar mower, and then raked into windrows for baling. When grass was thin, sometimes two or three small windrows were raked together to improve bale dimensions.

Most farmers pulled a hay wagon behind the baler, so the bales could be stacked for hauling to the barn. Nobody liked to stack bales on the hay rack. But it was a lot easier than dropping bales off into the field behind the baler.

That was a common scenario for beginning farmers who couldn’t afford to own a hay wagon. The bales were picked up off the ground and stacked in the back of a pickup truck.

It was hard work to stack the bales. High school students sometimes made good summer spending money handling hay bales. It is virtually impossible to find anybody who will do that job nowadays because it is hard work.

Most hay harvesting today is done with a swather, which mows the grass into windrows ready for baling into big round bales. A few livestock operators still bale some small square bales for feeding livestock in winter pens.

Reminded of Proverbs 10:5: “Make hay while the sun shines, that’s smart; go fishing during harvest, that’s stupid.”

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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