A Cowboy’s Faith: Hay harvest has changed – Osage County Online | Osage County News

A Cowboy’s Faith: Hay harvest has changed

In his greatest imagination, Dad would have never believed how ranch hay processing could change in half a century.

Back then, Dad left his grocery store butcher job about noon and headed to the hay field. A fairly-new John Deere 1020 tractor was hooked to a seven-foot sickle mower for cutting the grass field. By the next afternoon, the grass had dried enough for hay, so Dad raked it into windrows with the fairly-new side-delivery rake.

The well-used John Deere 15T twine square baler was hooked to the only tractor on the ranch. When Dad started baling the hay, something always went wrong. Either the baler knotter didn’t work, or the tying was so tight the bale twine broke; for sure something.

It was a one-man operation up to this point. There wasn’t a hay trailer, so the small bales were dropped on the ground behind the baler. At about 5 o’clock, his son arrived at the ranch from a town job and started picking up the hay bales.

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.The half-ton pickup was driven from bale to bale, and the then-younger worker got out at each bale and threw it into the truck bed. About 39 bales would make a load when properly stacked.

Real work was still to come as the hay bales had to be unloaded and stored away. Dad generally pushed the bales off the pickup to the helper who stacked them into the open hay barn. It was a lot harder when the bales were stored in the hay mow.

This year has been entirely different. Dad’s grandson uses the ranch swing-type swather to mow down the grass. If weather cooperates, hay is ready to bale the next day.

Custom operators bale the hay into either big round bales or small square bales. While big bales are easier to handle, small bales are needed for feeding livestock in small pens.

Small bales are accumulated into eight-bale packs that are picked up with a tractor front-end loader and stacked on a hay wagon. The bales are easily unloaded with the tractor and stored in the hay barn.

Putting up hay is sure a lot easier than it used to be.

Reminded of Proverbs 27:25: “Grass can become hay, but a rancher must work diligently to harvest what he can for the livestock.”

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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