The unusually wet weather across most of the prairies this season gave grain growers a real headache. Cattlemen, on the other hand, were smiling. Pastures and hay crops have rarely been better, a pleasant change after last year’s dismal yields. But getting that hay harvested is posing a challenge. Continuing rains mean livestock producers are now the ones reaching for the Tylenol.
It’s hard to get wet hay swaths to cure so they can be baled. If swaths get soaked, they may need to be turned to dry completely. To do that, most farmers use a rake. But the trade off can be a loss of leaf material leading to lower quality feed. To make sure you get that job done with the least damage, here are some tips offered by AGCO, which are taken from the publication “Cutting, Conditioning and Raking For Faster Hay Drying”.
“Every time you rake hay there is some leaf loss, so rake strategically. The drier the hay is at raking, the greater the leaf loss. If possible, raking alfalfa at moistures between 30 and 40 per cent is often a good compromise between low leaf loss and good drying. Leaf loss can be extremely high if raking at 20 per cent moisture, Hay that is almost dry is less likely to shatter when raked in the early morning when the dew is still on.
“Some rake designs are more aggressive and do a better job of fluffing but are also more prone to leaf loss, particularly at lower moistures. Uniform, consistent raking without bunching is required to avoid wet bales.
“If a partially dried hay field does receive a heavy rain, tedders or rotary rakes can break up a windrow that has clumped and matted into the stubble. Moving a windrow onto a drier surface, or fluffing onto stuble can speed drying. Tedders are better suited to grasses than alfalfa. Avoid using a tedder on alfalfa at moistures less than 50 per cent. Avoid driving with tractor tires on the swatch and causing leaf loss.”
New rakes on the market
If you’re looking to buy a rake to deal with damp swaths, there are quite a few choices out there; and a couple more have recently been added to the mix. Two manufacturers have just expanded their offerings with some new models.
AGCO announced they’re introducing the RK Series Massey Ferguson models. There are three of them in the line.
- Model RK3824 – Single basket, 13.5 ft, right delivery;
- Model RK3855 – Twin basket, 27.5 ft with either right side delivery or two single windrows, and
- Model RK3879 – Twin basket, 26.6 ft, centre delivery