On this visit in early August the focus was on trying to get the second cut of hay baled. The first cut in early July went fairly smoothly, a couple weather delays but not too bad.
Well, the second cut was proving more of a challenge….a nice stand of alfalfa/grass mix forage, but trying to get two, three or four nice days together in a row just wasn’t happening.
Part of the crop had been down for about eight days. The orchard grass was beginning to regrow through the swaths. It was beautiful stuff when it was first cut. Okay, so here was a pretty good day. It looked like the swaths were drying out. Let’s try raking this afternoon to put two windrows together and then with a couple nice hours of sun and wind tomorrow morning it should be ready to bale.
The hay is raked, but the next morning there is a heavy dew. The sun comes out, but there is a lot of humidity in the air. All it needs is a couple hours of warm, sunny, breezy conditions and it will be ready to go. The afternoon ticks away, conditions haven’t changed much — it is still tough. The weather forecast is for a pretty nice week ahead.
The downed hay should be ready to bale by that evening, so the plan is to cut the rest of the field. Once he gets baling, and with nice weather, the freshly cut hay should be ready to bale in a couple or three days.
But, then there is a light evening shower, that scuttles plans for baling. Well maybe tomorrow. But the next day is dull and overcast. What happened to that forecast of nice weather ahead? Thunder showers the next evening. This stuff is getting browner by the day. It may be time to drag the silaging equipment out of storage. But, wait, day three of my visit the sun is shining. A couple good hours of sun and a light breeze and this stuff will be ready to bale. I went golfing, but I left word if it looks like you can bale and you need a driver to rake hay, give me a call and I’ll come back. No call yet.
During the visit, I hear about the one John Deere tractor that was acting up a bit during the first hay cut. Well that went into the shop and it needed a new rear end…that was a $5,000 touch. And it was the newest of the three tractors. I suggest he add another 50 head of calves to the beef herd next year to pay for that.
And then we drove by one of the hay fields, where there was a backhoe and a pile of dirt. What happened there? The water line supplying this irrigation pivot sprung a leak. Dug down about eight feet to find the leak. A hole in the pipe about the size of a quarter was all that was needed to cause a small lake in the field. A new section of pipe is needed. Not a big fix, but one complication is in this spot the waterline supplying irrigation water is about three feet below the natural water table. So you dig down to find the damaged pipe, but then the hole keeps filling with water, so a pump is needed to keep the water out. But the sides of the hole keep wanting to slough in. Fortunately the ranch was able to borrow some interlocking steel panels that serve as cribbing to stabilize the sides of the hole until the repair is complete.
That project is started, but then it was time to get back to the second cut of hay. Four nice days and the whole 300 acres could be baled. But for now, all that is needed is just two or three hours of sunny, breezy conditions and at least they can get a start.
I look around… boy, ”if it ain’t one thing, it’s another…”
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]