Sunday, January 3, 2016
Sunday Reading - The 2015 Hay Project in Review
The biggest project I took on in 2015 was getting the implements needed to square bale the hay from the two fields we have here on the Small-Hold. To be honest I didn't actually think I was going to get all the equipment I needed in time to do it this year but things kinda fell together nicely in that department. My goal was to attempt to do this for under $3,000.00 and using implements and tractors from the 1970's or older.
In late 2014 I picked up an old Massy Ferguson sickle mower as the first installment. It was in pretty rough shape and really didn't stand up to the job with all the rain and explosive grass growth we had.
I must say though it was cheap. I think I paid $275.00 for it if I remember right. It works ok until the Johnson grass in the fields gets really thick stems on them and then it clogs up rather easily. This mower did a bang up job on the Alfalfa and as it turned out I had such a bad infestation of Blister Beetles it was a good thing I used a simple sicklebar mower because a conditioner would have rendered the Alfalfa poisonous if those beetles had been crushed in the hay.
My next purchase in early Spring was an old Ford 401 ground driven, 5 bar rake. I found this one about 20 miles South of me and towed it home behind my pickup. I paid $500.00 for it and it was in excellent shape.
These rakes use a big round belt to run the bars and a lot of people are leery of them because of it. However those belts last a good long time and this rake just had a new one installed. I was very happy with how this rake performed all Summer and using a draw bar behind the 8N allowed me to adjust for uneven ground while moving easily.
I figured at this point I was done as finding a good baler was going to be impossible until an old gentleman I work with informed me he had a Ford 532 baler sitting in his shed he hadn't used in over a decade and wanted to get rid of it.
He offered it to me for $1000.00 and although that price was a bit high for an old Ford baler I jumped on it because this guy took good care of it and I wanted to maintain the Ford theme as much as possible.
Getting the baler home was a bit more of a trip than the rake and mower. It was about 40 miles away by road on the other side of a river. Only about 20 miles away as the crow flies. I used magnetic tow lights and moved her at dawn one Sunday morning with a chase truck following close behind and kept my speed under 45mph.
Starting in June the first baling began when the rains let up.
I got three cuttings off the small Alfalfa field and one large cutting off the main hay field and put out about 325 bales of hay by my count.
I got a good crash course in knotters, the importance of good twine, and just how fast this old baler could take in a windrow.
I also learned the importance of an over riding clutch a time or two.
Baling my fields with this old equipment was a very new experience for me having previously only helped using a conditioner and a round baler. The round baler wouldn't go over the berms put in the field but I could do them with this smaller square baler however it required learning to rake all over again as I needed much smaller windrows for this old baler.
So the final tally at the end of the season was approximately $5.46 per square bale of hay. That doesn't include the price of the tractors nor any consumables either but just the one time cost of the implements for me to do it. So this year of course it would have been cheaper to have just bought hay.
Using the square bales though reduced waste by a huge amount and more than covered our needs for the rams and while the ewes were in with the rams. It is also used for those days when the sheep are trapped inside the barn due to bad weather. We are buying large round bales from our neighbor for the useless nags and putting one out for the sheep in the West pasture as well. By my calculations though I put up enough hay to get the flock through Winter if the grazing area used by the useless nags was open to the sheep. Also the cost of the implements will be gone by the next season.
On the plus side my attempt at 1960's baling was a huge hit with all the local farmers as well and proved a topic I was asked about and checked on frequently while I was doing it. They kept track of what I brought home and stopped by often to lend advice and guidance. I think more than one of them were having fun reliving the old days when they were kids.
My growing experiments might have been a bust in 2015 but the hay project was pretty much a success. I now need to look into fixing the mower or purchasing one that works better. Because of the wet season and explosive growth I often times had to revert to using the brush hog to mow the hay and that reduced the yield somewhat.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!