How is hay made?


Very carefully.  There’s a surprising amount of science and engineering that goes into making hay, and now that I live in hay making country I thought it prudent to learn more about how hay is made. 



Of course, many factors contribute to the quality of hay.  You have the type of hay, the soil it’s grown in, how “weedy” the fields are, how much rain happens (or not), and how it’s turned from grass into bales of hay.  When all of the stars align, your horse can munch down on some amazing hay.  


First things first - the cutting.  Basically, the hay field is mowed with a mower conditioner when the grass is mature, but not old.  The mowing needs to happen when there is a window of three to five days when the hay can dry.  Wet hay is a mold party waiting to happen.  When the hay is cut, the mower conditioner cuts the grass, which then goes through the conditioner to crimp the hay.  This makes the drying process a little faster.  Most mower conditioners will crimp the hay ever 4 inches, but some super mower conditioners crimp the hay at smaller increments to speed up drying.  


Windrows of drying hay. 


The mower conditioner also creates those rows of cut grass in the fields.  These are called windrows, and the mower conditioner determines how wide the windrows are.  If you need to, you can then come over the windrows with a tedder.  This handy machine spreads out the windrows.  Bet you know why - to speed up the grass drying process.   


A few more steps - if the windrows have been spread out by the tedder, then the rake can come along and put them back into windrows.  Alternatively, the rake can turn over the windrows if they were not spread out by the tedder.  


The tedding machine - all about helping the cut grass dry. 

Now it’s finally time to bale.  The baler sucks up the windrows, and creates bales or round bales.  Different balers create different sized bales.  It may be a two string, a three string, or a baby sized round bale, or a monster round bale.  


A baler.  This one creates small round bales. 


There’s quite a lot of land, equipment, and dodging weather for this to happen.  And, it can just as easily be ruined with the wrong timing or busted equipment.  


Do you know where your hay comes from?