Baum Farm
Certified Organic
Canaan, Vermont

Hay Making

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Hay Making at Baum Farm
To make hay, the forage has to be mowed, allowed to dry and then baled. The process of making hay sounds quite simple but in reality it is not.   In real life there are many different methods of making hay and the resultant quality can be very different.  I am going to describe our process of making hay and the equipment we use.

The first thing you need to make good hay is good soil.  The soil has to be maintained to continue to get good hay.  We farm in the Connecticut River Valley known for its fertile soils.  We also test the soil to see what it needs to maintain its quality.  We apply natural fertilizers such as wood ash, lime and manure to maintain the proper fertility.

It is very important when the hay is harvested.  The protein and digestible nutrients continue to do down as the  plant get more mature until an optimium point is reached.  At the point just before the plant goes to seed the forages have a lot of mass and the digestibility and protein are still high.  If you wait to harvest the forage past this point of going to seed the forages starts to lose more of its nutritional value.  We try to harvest the forage at their peak of nutritional value and mass.  Of course, like all farmers, we can be a victim of the weather and can’t harvest at the peak time.  We do our best to harvest at the correct time but we need at least 3 good days to harvest the forage.

The hay we are harvesting is timothy / red clover and alfalfa.  We use a Krone 9.2 meter (10ft) disk mower conditioner.  Important things about the mower are that the blades need to be sharp to cut the forage without tearing and it has to be able to cut the forage quickly.  We need to cut the forage quickly because we are working against the weather.

It is important that the mower cut height be set properly.  If the forage is cut too short you can get dirt in the forage and damage the forage for regrowth. A higher cut height allow the forage to regrow quickly using it root reserves. The Krone mower we have uses a floating head to maintain the constant cutting height as it moves across the field.

The time of day the forage is cut is also an important factor.  The amount of sugar in the forage is highest during the afternoon due to longer sunshine.   The sugar in the hay is basically energy in the hay.  We mow our forage in the afternoon to capture the higher sugar content.