Bug Bites and Dirt Tans The Haying Series Part I: Swathing

Swathing is the term we use when talking about cutting down the grass to make hay. When the grass is ready and the forecast is not predicting any rain (mostly we just cross our fingers because its about as accurate) we pull into the field with the swather and start cutting. There is a blade at the bottom of the swather with triangular shaped knives that move back and forth to cut the grass and then it goes through conditioners (bars) that spit out the grass and lay it in a neat windrow behind the swather, so the baler can later pick it up. It is difficult because when you first pull into a field the grass is really high and you can’t see, so you hope that you don’t hit a rock and that you remember where the stumps are or dips are in the field, so you don’t wreck the swather of the knives. The other thing that is tricky about cutting hay is you have to be looking behind you at the swather at all times to make sure that it isn’t plugged up because then the knives are unable to cut the grass and you leaves strips in the field, but at the same time you need to be looking forward, so you stay in a straight line. Needless to say you get a sore neck because it is always craned behind you. Once it is all cut all you can do is pray it doesn’t rain because when the hay is cut it needs to dry, so if it rains when the hay is in the middle of drying it can spoil it and make less nutritious feed. 

Erika StrandeImageOne of our fields before we started swathing. This year we had exceptional crops because we had so much moisture in May and June (which is really unusual for my area). Ideally we wanted to starting swathing 2 weeks prior to when we actually got started because it kept raining and you can’t cut if it’s wet. The down side of being 2 weeks late is that the crop has started heading out, Image

A picture of the first pass in the field. This is where you just hope that you remembered to pick up all the irrigation pipes and there are no rocks because you really can’t see much!

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This is the swather it hooks up behind the tractor to the PTO! This is what cuts the grass and starts the process of turning grass into hay, so we can feed our cows in the winter when the snow is covering the forage!

 

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