Haying equipment dilemma: Sickle bar or haybine?
My name is Michael Borland and I live in Queenstown on Maryland's Eastern shore. I've owned a small farm here for about 12 years and have leased most of it to a commercial grain farmer (big on the Eastern Shore). I've been a user of Rodale's books in all my flower and veggie gardening and have subscribed to New Farm for about 6 months. I've always had a small hay sideline and your essay in last month's [May] newsletter came at a time when I'm investing in equipment to do my own hay - I have more horse customer demand than I ever imagined for my good clover and orchard grass mix. Up to now I've been involved with three neighbors in an equipment pool, but as I approach organic certification, I need my own equipment. I have two general questions and you seem like a fellow that would know.
I'm accumulating my basic equip this year with the intention of being
independent during next year's season. Any hay making advice would be
I’d be interested in hearing from you how things are working out. It sounds to me that you are asking the right questions and moving in the right direction. Keep in mind that with hay quality is paramount and anything you can do to insure that the quality you have when you cut the hay is the quality you have when you take it out of the barn is time and money well spent. I look forward to hearing back from you.
The conversation with Mike continues:
Thanks for the advice and sorry for the long time in replying. Having
a full time job with the Navy in Wash D.C. and with trying to farm part
time--the past month has flashed by. As you have had up in PA, we also
had the wettest May/June Combo on record. It has really knocked the big
Grain guys here pretty hard. I lost my first cutting of hay due to the
nonstop rain. After it seeded out, turned brown and went down for the
third time I conducted a mercy bushhogging and now have a pretty good
re-growth of my Orchard grass and Timothy.
I really enjoy the New Farm newsletter and your column. Thanks for the advice and here's to a successful second cutting
Good morning, Mike.
I’m glad to hear you are making progress with your operation. When it comes to dollars and cents, it’s hard to justify almost any purchase of farm equipment. Paying it off over time with the sale of hay is difficult for me to estimate. All I can tell you is that with time management being an issue (which it must be for you having a full time job off-farm) getting the hay cut and ready for baling in the shortest amount of time is important. Therefore I’m going to suggest a used haybine over the straight sickle bar. More dollars but more sense. Good luck and thanks for the email.
Jeff, thanks for the advice.
The deal is done. I bought the Haybine today. It looks like I'll have my equipment all together for our mid summer cut here in the next couple of weeks. Midsummer grass hay is always of iffy quality here on the shore because of the usual heat and dryness but it looks like a decent late July early Aug haying is upon us this year. We generally have an excellent late hay season in late Sept. early Oct., so I'm hoping to have my rake and tedder by then and maybe get two cutting out of this crazy year. Do you all use rotary rakes or the parallel bar rakes or wheel rakes. I've heard lots of positive talk about the Rotaries, which one doesn't see much of here on the shore. I also hear lots of negatives about the wheel rakes. Let me know if you have any thoughts on this issue as well. I really appreciate the time you've taken in answering these beginner's questions!
I’m still using an old side delivery rake. It’s bought and
paid for, but it’s slow. I think it’s still hard to beat the
action for legume hay. I’m sure there are pluses and minuses to
each tool. I don’t have a lot of experience with all the rakes that
are out there. Your neighbors will be as useful here as anyone. I’m
sure whatever you get it will work fine.
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