A couple of days ago, as I returned from a grocery shopping trip, I was driving down my driveway and noticed 5 tractors driving every which way through our freshly mown fields of winter wheat. Never had I wanted my camera with me more than at that moment because it looked like a congested, chaotic mess of very busy tractors.
It made me smile.
The farmer has some baleage (pronounced bale-edge) done every year and Wednesday was the day it would all be baled and wrapped.
I hadn’t seen my husband all morning, so he stopped in to say hi and I sent him back out with my camera since he was in the middle of all of it.
I get kind of nervous just going out in the field and taking random pictures of men that don’t know me. They might think that was kind of weird.
So, today, our pictures are provided by the farmer and I am going to attempt to tell you about how all of this goes down.
The first day consists of just mowing down all the wheat. We don’t want the wheat to dry out very much. We want to bale it green for baleage and, ideally, it will “cure” over night to a 40-60% moisture rate. For regular hay, you would want about 18% moisture.
The next morning, the family that does our baleage drove all their tractors out with the equipment hooked onto the back and went to work.
The first step consists of raking all the “wind rows” that have been mown down.
The rows that were originally mowed are kind of light. This rake pulls three of the thinner rows into one big row so the guy pulling the baler can make faster work of baling.
Now, for the baling part.
This tractor is coming along behind the rake and pulling all of the raked hay into this nifty little contraption.
I like to think of it as a “hay vacuum.”
As he continues to drive down the wind rows, it picks the hay up and winds it around and around into a bale inside. Notice the black box sticking up there beside his shoulder. That’s a control module for the baler.
This computer will start beeping away when the bale is done and ready to roll out.
All I can do at this moment is think about that silly rap song, “Roll Out!”
I’m going to write New Holland today and pitch my idea of letting that be the new sounding alarm when a bale’s done.
And roll out is exactly what it does.
Just beautiful. Balers are so cool.
Upon releasing the bale, another tractor comes along behind (my husband was doing this, so there’s no pictures) and picks up the bale to transport it to the hay trailer. Another tractor brings all the hay on the trailer to the person stationed at the wrapper. And yet another tractor is parked at the wrapper in order to spear the bales into the wrapper.
I will now introduce to you to the wrapper.
I get transfixed watching this piece of machinery work. It rotates around the bale, speedily wrapping it in plastic at a rate of over 100 bales per hour. This plastic does not allow the bale to breathe at all. Because it is more moist than regular hay, this causes baleage to ferment. In short, this whole fermentation process makes for a more palatable feed for cattle. They think it’s quite tasty, which means that very little goes to waste. When you’re a dairy farmer, it’s all about intake. If the cows like to eat it, production is good.
As the guy working the wrapper feeds the bales into it, it creates this long tube.
You can individually wrap bales, but my husband personally prefers to do the tubes. I have no idea why. That’s a post for a later date, maybe.
Now, that’s it all done, he’s researching what he wants to plant next. Farmers never stop thinking about crops. Crops are the life-blood of dairies. Dairy cows are picky eaters and a farmer in this particular category can’t just plant anything and expect good production. A lot of planning goes into the process because dairy cows need specific levels of specific nutrients to be happy, healthy cows.
When we do our job, they do theirs. And they’ll do it quite well.
Making hay while the sun shines. It’s a win-win.