It is haying season and just like everything else this year, haying season has been messed up by the weather. I am just now getting a good start on my brome hay that I had hoped to have finished a month ago, and the prairie hay that I had hoped to be started on is now ready. In short, we are behind the schedule I had set for the summer and that should be no surprise to anyone who knows me.
The silver lining to all of this is that we are in the middle of a record hay crop. That is a good thing, since I finished last winter with a grand total of one bale. The downside of the record crop is that it is hard to get dry and stresses my already stressed machinery and that stresses me.
We started baling hay about two weeks ago and progress has been slow and not so steady since then. The first field started out the heaviest I have ever seen it and the mowing and raking went as smoothly as it could have, then I started baling. Even that started good enough. The first 20 bales came out as OK as they could with a worn-out old baler, and then it started. A bearing on the pickup reel went out, it got changed and right away the slip clutch went out. Twenty bales later, a belt broke, and after the belt came numerous plugging of the baler.
The solution was obvious — the weak link was the baler. We had planned on trading balers this winter and it made sense to go ahead and make the move while we still had a lot of hay to put up. The new baler was found, the old one was given a proper send off and I thought I had the problem of the lingering, taking forever hay baling solved. You would have thought I would have known better.
The new baler was delivered, and it worked as well as advertised and I was in high cotton, cranking out bales left and right. At least I was, until the PTO shaft broke on the tractor. Thanks to great service by my baler dealer, the monitor and baler were switched over and I only lost about an hour. Problem solved and we would start making hay — literally.
Again, I was wrong, and I should have known better.
I had a plan — rake hay in the late morning, deliver lambs to the locker plant in the early afternoon and bale hay by mid-afternoon. My rake decided to be the weak link that day. The raking was going perfectly, everything in the world was right and then I blew the tire out.
The funny thing was that I had remembered to check the tires that day and they were fine. Too many days, I am in too big of a hurry and have a tendency not to check.
The tire was not hard to change but the tire shop was slammed, and it was going to take a couple of hours to get the tire fixed — and by fixed, I mean a new tire mounted on. No problem, I would just deliver lambs, pick the tire up and resume raking. That was exactly what I did, and it only cost me a couple of hours, but what are a couple of hours when you are a couple of weeks behind.
The hay was finally raked, and I was finally ready to start baling with my new shiny super baler. I am not sure I mentioned it, but the baler came with a moisture sensor. I thought it would be interesting, but after many years of baling I was not sure I really needed one; technology probably saved the day for me at least this once.
As I started baling, I noticed that the moisture levels seemed to spike in certain areas and in general were coming up. I must also mention that instead of starting in early afternoon, I was starting in late evening baling. I knew the hay was heavy, I knew there were problem areas and I also was very aware that the humidity levels were extremely high. That was when common sense took over and I realized that the smart thing to do was to call it a day and let Mother Nature take her course and dry the hay out. We had a zero chance of rain.
Well, here I sit watching my zero chance of rain pelt my windshield and delay me at least part of another day. I mentioned to Jennifer that I was very discouraged because haying was not going well, and I had continued to eliminate weak links in the haying process. That was when she mentioned that I still had one weak link. I am not sure what she meant but it must be a really weak link.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.