|Polly, Lady, Connie and George (l-r) get ready to bale hay.|
Hello everyone (this is Scott, what's up)
Of late I have been confused as to whether Northland is in a temperate rain forest or actually in upstate NY, but not so long ago there was a sufficiently dry stretch and we were able to get our first cutting of hay in, about 5 acres. Having only experience in vegetables, making hay is an entirely new experience for me and of course made more complex and interesting because of the horses.
For the uninitiated (me, like three weeks ago), making hay starts with cutting grass. We use two McCormick Deering No. 9 mowing machines for this purpose, and with two teamsters each working a team we're able to cut about 2 acres an hour. We then ted the hay for two consecutive days after cutting; basically the tedder fluffs up the hay so that all parts of the hay get sufficiently dry. Hay that is baled and stored when too wet can spontaneously combust, causing barn fires, and that's why we ted. I've been reading that in drier parts of this great big country people haven't heard of tedders because they are unnecessary. Big ol' footnote below if you're interested in the why on spontaneous bale combustion.
After the hay is deemed to be sufficiently dry (but one can't just let it sit forever- Donn and Maryrose have explained it as a race between nutrient loss and having hay that's dry enough) then comes raking into windrows so that the baler can pick up all the hay, and then baling.
|Donn on the forecart driving the baler over windrows of raked hay.|
|Maryrose stacking bales on the wagon. A bit of a balancing act as this whole thing is moving, and occasionally over uneven ground.|
|The whole setup.|
Donn and Maryrose got about 200 bales in on one day (about 2.5 acres' worth) and then encountered problems with the part of the baler that ties knots on each bale the next day, eventually having to call the Baler Man ("When In A Jam Call The Baler Man") to fix it. In the meantime, it was supposed to rain that night so we called our neighbor Carl to finish what we were unable to bale. He had a setup pretty similar to this one which had me wondering how I could work a bale thrower with horses the rest of the day. Simply because a bale catapult is just really cool. Anyhow check out the rest of the photos below, it was a beautiful day for it. As soon as it stops raining for long enough we'll do the whole process again several times over- bales are how we keep horses and ewes fed during the winter months when there is no grazing, and thus we need a lot of them (somewhere around 3000 each season).
|The empty hay mow awaiting bales. We will put around 2000 in this barn.|
From the Virginia Cooperative Extension
Freshly cut forage is not dead; respiration (the burning of plant sugars to produce energy) continues in plant cells and a small amount of heat is released in the bale. Many producers refer to this elevation in bale temperature as "sweating" or "going through a heat." In hay that is baled at the proper moisture concentration, plant cell respiration has slowed dramatically and will eventually cease.
The heat generated by plant cell respiration in hay bales is normal and generally of little consequence. However, if bale moisture levels are too high (greater than 20 percent), the heat and moisture will provide a suitable environment for the growth and multiplication of mesophilic (warm temperature) bacteria that are present on forage crops. The respiration of mesophilic bacteria releases additional heat in the bale and interior bale temperatures can reach 130° to 140°F. At this temperature range, most mesophilic bacteria die and interior bale temperatures start to decline.
This cycle of heating and cooling may occur several times during the weeks after baling as the microbial population increases and decreases. However, the maximum temperature decreases during each subsequent cycle. The interior bale temperature will eventually stabilize near the ambient temperature. Hay that has sustained these heat cycles has lost much of its quality as a feeding source, but is unlikely to catch fire.
Baled hay becomes a potential fire hazard when the interior bale temperature does not cool after the first heating cycle. This occurs when the respiratory heat created by the mesophilic bacteria provides an environment favorable for the growth and multiplication of thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria. The thermophilic organisms multiply and the heat produced by their respiration can raise the interior bale temperature to 170°F before microbial activity ceases.
The thermophilic bacteria and their respiration heat convert the hay to a form similar to a carbon sponge with microscopic pores. This damaged material combines readily with oxygen at high temperatures and can self ignite in the presence of oxygen.