Homemade hay is an activity advanced farmers and hobbyists can do. Determine how much hay you want to make before investing in equipment. Making homemade hay results in better quality and less nutrient loss if timed correctly.
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Sickle bar and rotary mowers mow the hay. Sickle bar mowers cut cleanly, but sometimes miss hay if they are moving too fast. Sickle bar mowers are convenient with small tractors. Rotary mowers rarely plug, but require more power to run.
Conditioners roll or crimp the crop to aid drying. The hay is crushed under pressure, which breaks the covering. This allows moisture to evaporate and speeds up bale time, but sometimes this method results in more hay lost. Flail, impeller, and tine machines condition hay with a scuffing method. Because of this conditioning type, the growth of the next crop is slowed.
Hay rakes gather hay before baling. Parallel rakes lose the least amount of hay, while wheel rakes tend to gather rocks. Rotary rakes not only gather and roll, but often have the ability to spread hay for better air circulation. This function is useful during periods of heavy rain.
Balers compress hay into circular or rectangular bales. Some bailers pick up and stack hay, while smaller bailers require manual hay gathering. Small hay bales are usually 40 pounds; larger bales weigh anywhere from 500 pounds to one ton. Hay bale size depends on the size of the machine used.
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