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Make Hay While The Sun Shines


By Ethan Thomas Lail, with help from mother Allison Lail

What do you know about hay? My name is Ethan Thomas Lail and I am nine years old. Let me tell you what I know about baling hay.

My mom and dad moved onto my dad’s grandparents’ farm in Maryville, Tennessee and started hay farming after they got married. My dad’s grandfather, and then his uncle and my dad’s father “Pops” used to raise cattle on the farm; but that was way before my time. After my dad’s uncle passed away, the cattle were sold, dad graduated from college, and moved into grandma’s house. But he wanted to keep the farm going by turning it into hay farm. The only farm equipment they had to start with was Pops’ tractor and a sickle bar mower. The rest was all started on faith.

Why do some farm animals eat hay? Because they are hungry, says my little brother Calvin.  It’s their food for the winter when there is not much grass in the pasture.

Where does hay come from? Grass! Can you get it from mowing your yard? No. Because mowers and bush hogs chop up the grass in small pieces, so it clumps and does not make hay flakes.

Hay is forage, which is plant material such as grass, plant leaves and stems. When do we harvest hay? From May to September.  If there are four days of clear weather forecast, then you can get started. Let’s cut hay!

First use tractor and cutter, which cuts the grass clean next to ground and lays the grass out flat. Then we ted the same day or the day after, which flips the hay and spreads it out. Then, we wait for the grass to become golden brown by sitting in sun to dry. What happens if we bale too green and moist? They hay is too wet and molds, so horses cannot digest it. On day three or four we walk the field to make sure there are no wet spots by using our hands to feel the hay. We then use a rake to gather hay in windrows. Then the baler comes along, pulled by another tractor, to bale the hay.

How does the square baler work? The pick-up in front of the machine picks up the hay from windrows and gathers it into the baler, just like it’s eating. The John Deere baler has an auger that rolls hay into the next compartment. The auger constantly rolls to push hay into the chamber. The New Holland and Massey balers have forks that shift the hay to the next compartment. A sliding door allows enough hay to be pushed in to make one flake, as the door opens and closes. The timing is all continuous motion.

The hay has now entered the bale chamber. A small lever in the back of the baler next to the knotters moves up a notch each time the baler makes a flake. When that lever reaches the top, it triggers the large needles under the baler to move up by feeding the hay string trough the knotters, and the knotters tie and cut. Bale number one!

There are several ways to pick up hay out of the field. One way is with a Hay Master Accumulator that puts eight bales through a chute together into a giant square. A grappler, hooked up to a skid steer, hooks to the gathered bales and stacks them on a flatbed trailer or in the barn.

Another way to pick up hay is with a hay wagon that can be hooked up behind the baler, where one or two persons stack as the bales are dropped on the platform on the wagon. A kicker can also be attached to the back of the baler chute, which tosses the bales into a basket wagon. But most of the time we come into the field with a truck and trailer; two people walk beside the trailer, pick up bales by hand, and throw them to a person on the trailer who stacks the bales. After the hay is picked up and put on trailers, we take it to the barn or deliver it to a hay customer.

This is how our family and family friends work on the farm business. I enjoy helping and I can almost pick up a bale, but mostly I just roll it. The best part is when we use the four-wheeler and little trailer. It can hold up to 20 bales! The big trailers hold 100-200 hay bales. I enjoy farming because I get to be outside, help keep the family tradition going, and watch how these farm machines work.

This is my little brother’s version; he helps tell how the baler works, too.

I’m Calvin Henry Lail and I’m four years old. I love to farm because I love tractors!

We bale hay in the summer when the sun is out so we don’t get wet. If we get wet, we get stuck in the mud.  If the hay gets wet, the baler pickup won’t pick up hay to make a bale. It just falls right out. Hay has to be dry. We don’t bush hog for hay.

First we cut with the “55,” that’s the John Deere 2155, with the cutter that cuts the grass. Then we ted the hay with Pops’ tractor or the loader tractor. The tedder flips the hay up and flops it back out. This is all done on the first day.

We wait a day before we rake so the hay can get dry. The rake rakes up the hay into windrows. Then, we bale it with the New Holland baler. Pops always rakes with his tractor and daddy bales. If we cut the big field we use two balers! The baler picks up the hay from windrows, rolls it into the bale chamber, then pushes it back until it clicks to snap, tie a knot, and makes a bale.

Before we got the accumulator and grappler, we drove the truck and trailer to pick up hay bales off the field. My dad, Brent, and sometimes his friends James and Adam, pick up hay bales and mom stacks them on the trailer. After the trailer is loaded, we deliver hay to people who have horses. I like to visit barns like one with chickens and horses. One barn has a conveyer going up to a loft. I help rake up hay in the hallway and feed it to horses.

I like farming because it’s fun! I play with my toy tractors, bush hog, loader tractor, and like to be outside with my family. One day I want to farm, too.

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