Last week when we finally wound up making the last of our first cutting hay I was reminded of the difference between people/farmers who make hay and those of us who make "good" hay.
The drought of 2013 definitely brought out the worst in those who just make hay . . .
In our struggle to get up our first cutting (between rain every day or two), we had an abundance of hay because we went well into June to get our fields cut. The surplus allowed me to meet both a hay buyer and another farmer that we brought in to cut two of our fields on shares.
My hay buyer literally begged up for anything else we had. He told me horror stories of the hay he purchased last year that had sticks, huge thistles, leaves and everything else in the bales. He and his wife drove 40 miles each way three separate times last week to buy the overflow from our fields. He even told me he would wait out the summer in hopes that we would sell more after we get our second cutting.
Making good hay is an art and I learned from the best: my dad. Few people are willing to do what he did to make good hay, and what I do to get ours up dry and weed free . .
In addition to fertilizing in the spring and fall and weed control throughout the year, I religiously pull weeds (any that have been missed by other forms of weed control), in the days leading up to dropping our hay. Then I will walk the fields once the hay is down and pull out anything I may have missed. One of our fields borders a woods, so I make sure to pull out leaves, sticks, and other things that may have fallen into the windrows.
Once our hay is cut I also check all of the rows for large clumps left by the haybine. These are a bear to dry out if they aren't forked up and spread out. Last, but not least, if there are every any heavy sections or parts of the fields that tend to not dry as fast as the other rows, I literally hand turn and check the windrows through that area.
When our farmer that came in and did two of our fields on shares (we only did this as a means to get our hay down in the 3-4 days we had between rain storms) I was reminded how most guys make hay: fast. He sped through the fields mowing at top speed and left numerous clumps that he said he wasn't worried about. (I was and spent and hour spreading them out so they would dry). Then they skinned the heck out of my fields by running the rake too low . . . which also kicked up roots and dirt into the windrow. These guys may be able to brag that they put up 10,000 bales a year, but again there's a difference between making hay and making "good hay".