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Making hay: A guide to doing it right

The time is near for baling hay. Are you ready?

People passing your pasture by car will soon see tractors hard at work and huge hay bales popping up in the field. By then, you’ll have done all the prep work needed for a successful season. Here’s your guide to getting it right, from your friends at Agri Supply.

Why bale hay?
You’ll need fresh forage throughout the year, but in most locations, it’s not available all year. Fresh forage can provide plenty of nutrients for beef and dairy cattle, horses, and sheep when resources are scarce. Harvest now for use in late fall and winter.

1. Preseason check
Just as you would start any season in agriculture, a check of equipment is the place to start. A tractor optimized through a parts assessment and routine maintenance will yield better efficiency and lower cost.

2. Weather watch
You’ll need 2 or 3 full days without rain for best baling. Moisture fosters mold and degrades hay quality, but hay too dry will likely be low in nutrients.

3. Keep it clean Set the baler pickup tines about an inch off the ground to avoid dirt and rocks being picked up with the hay. For hilly fields, set the height to account for peaks. Clean hay has lower ash content, which makes for better quality and easier digestion.

4. Widen windrows
Bale quality is correlative with windrows, rows of cut hay set out to dry. Windrows as wide or wider than your baler will distribute hay more evenly, helping you to avoid barrel-shaped bales. Pro tip: If you can’t make windrows that wide, make them half the width of your baler, then weave back and forth for even distribution.

5. Strive for the best density
Hay bales with poor density fall apart easily and could expedite heating. A density gauge is a helpful tool, but you should also feel your bales for good density. A good kick (should make your foot smart a bit) and a finger test (you shouldn’t be able to stick your fingers in it) indicate you’ve got the right density.

6. Keep dry
Excess moisture makes the internal temperature of a bale rise. This makes hay bales susceptible to spontaneous combustion, at levels of 20% moisture or more. At more than 130 degrees Fahrenheit, bales are a hazard, especially if stored in a barn or stacked together.

7. Prep for the next harvest
Before you store your equipment again, look it over. Replace broken or worn parts. Lubricate chains and sprockets. Consult your owner’s manual for recommended inspection points.

Visit your neighborhood Agri Supply for everything you need for hay baling. From bales and bale wrap to rakes and tedders, you’ll find all you need here.

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