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Hay making without machines

 
Stefan Pagel
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I have enough grass etc here so that I could make hay for my goats and pigs, but I have no machinery.
Last year I tried a scythe but my back didn't like it much. I could do a little and then had to rest. Also the weather up here rarely stays dry enough to cut for several days by hand and then turn and dry manually.
So my plan is to turn one of my ruins on the land into a greenhouse / drying room. I want to add an under floor rocket mass heater so that I can toss the grass onto the slabs, dry it quickly without turning much and hand bale it. If I can make 30 small square bales I can feed my goats all winter and should have some spare for my pigs. Of course if I could make more I could sell some but thats maybe for the future.

I am open to all ideas on how else I could cut the grass. Also hand baler plans are more than welcomed, I came up empty when I searched for it online. Any suggestions on the whole idea? Anybody doing this already?
 
Tabatha Mic
Posts: 26
Location: North Central Mississippi
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I've put up a bit of lawn hay using my scythe, a leaf rake and a tarp.

Using the scythe really shouldn't be hard on your back. Do you have an american or an austrian? I can't say enough about the austrian styles. I'll never put hands on a weedeater again.
The motion is almost like turns in Thai Chi, which can be very soothing to muscles & is low impact. If you haven't, I'd highly suggest watching videos from Scythe Supply for proper technique. Also, scythes cut better when the grass is damp or moist. I like to start shortly before sunup & work til I get too warm. I can do our whole yard (1/3 acre) in an hour. You do get to rest every 10-15 minutes or so, since you need to whet the blade. That helps a lot.

Also, is there any reason you would have to bale it? Baling is really for convenience purposes for shipping & stacking.
If you have a place (perhaps one of those slabs) where you can get it off the moist ground & covered, there's your hay. Just pile it up & cover it. There is a way of stacking that will shed water, but I don't trust my novice stacking skills with that. Hence the tarp

Just my $.02

Oh, you might want to try a reel mower. I have no experience with them, just thought of it.
 
Stefan Pagel
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I watched several videos about how to use the scythe but I bought an old one second hand and I don't think I know well enough what to do with the blade. It was hard work getting it to cut the grass. Also our terrain isn't flat and I kept cutting into soil and old plant matter from years of leaving the place unattended.
I wouldn't mind using a reel/cylinder mower but the one I had wasn't coping with the lumps and bumps and my back wasn't happy neither. I also need the grass to be fairly long and the mower couldn't cope with that neither.

Piling up hay is not an option in our weather up here. We have large bales of hay going walkabouts in the wind, 40-60mph is a regular occurrence with the odd 80-120mph, so I need to store it inside which means having to stack it to save space.

But first it needs to be cut and I am not sure how to do that. I would buy a machine if it wasn't so costly....
 
Rex Nichols
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Location: Indiana, USA
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Is a reason one would not want to just save lawn mower clippings? Does the grass loose nutritional value, or shelf life when it is cut into smaller pieces?
 
Stefan Pagel
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The pigs love it but the goats don't and it's very hard to bale...
 
L. Jones
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Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
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Stefan Pagel wrote:I watched several videos about how to use the scythe but I bought an old one second hand and I don't think I know well enough what to do with the blade. It was hard work getting it to cut the grass. Also our terrain isn't flat and I kept cutting into soil and old plant matter from years of leaving the place unattended.


So....you probably have a dull, possibly abused blade and quite possibly have not yet learned to get it razor sharp.

It won't cut well, unless and until it's razor sharp. How possible that is may depend on how much it's been abused. It also depends on you learning to sharpen it.

Try to find some old guy that will show you how for a few pints. You likely won't actually learn well enough in one session, but if you at least get it sharpened adequately you'll have some idea how it should cut when sharp, and you can then gauge your progress on sharpening as you keep trying, then buy a few more pints and move your learning along after you've had some practice.

You've probably heard the old saying "practice makes perfect" but you may not fully appreciate it until after you've learned an old-fashioned manual labor skill.

It will take most people a weeks work to work up to moderately bad at it. And they'll discover all sorts of new aches and pains from muscles they haven't used, or haven't used in that way. They'll probably also be working way too hard at it, as compared to someone practiced at the skill. In a month they might be passable. Give it a few years and they may actually be tolerably good, if they keep at it. Perceptive types will still be picking up fine points 40 years on. Not so perceptive types know everything in 15 minutes and never learn more - nor do they improve.

Given that it's at least partly a physical skill, you also need to work into it to some extent - go out and practice cutting for only half an hour to an hour a day, since you seem to have plenty of grass to play with. Work up to more time gradually. You may also need to adjust the handles. If you can't dry what you cut while "practicing", just get the animals to eat it.

So, your terrain is not flat, and you cut into soil and clumps of plant matter. Machine would not love either of those, you at least have the hope of learning to look for those things and adjust your swing to miss them. I'd be surprised if your swing was at all accurate yet. It may take a while, but you stand a much better chance of getting there than a machine does.

You may also want to clear an area that you'll plan to mow for hay of clumps and humps, letting your grazers work on the rest of your land with the untouched humps and clumps, thus making for fewer obstacles to cut into as you are mowing.

Much the same learning curve applies to using a mowing machine, actually, but certain aspects are dumbed down, and many folks also blame the machine for things that are more probably operator error (it wouldn't like trying to cut the dirt either, for instance - nor does it work well when dull) - certainly machines break a lot more in inexperienced hands than experienced ones.
 
R Scott
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This is one of the times it can be smart money to pay someone else to do it. If you don't have the money, but plenty of hay, there are farmers that will cut and bale it for a share of the hay (they usually get half to three-fourths of it for the work ) But you get more in the barn than you would have, and they cut down the old growth in the process so it will be easier next year.
 
Stefan Pagel
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I tried to find somebody to teach me the art of using and sharpening a scythe but I live in a VERY remote area where plenty old folk don't like incomers. Many many people do not like to share their knowledge and the few that do are not easily found by people like myself. So I have been trying to learn from watching different videos on youtube, but often they don't show you properly because they want you to attend their courses, which are mostly in the south of England nearly 1000 miles from where I live. It is also hard to learn from videos instead of being shown and people being able to correct you.
The scythe is old, no adjustable handles and this was all I could afford at the time. I am pretty sure the blade isn't nearly as sharp enough as it needs to be with my foolish attempts to sharpen it after watching a few videos on how to do it.
Last year I tried to find a farmer to do the hay for me but the estimate is 200-400 bales from my ground and I don't have storage for that many bales. It also VERY difficult to find a farmer who will bale in dry conditions as we hardly ever get more than a few dry days and farmers will always do their own hay first. Keeping in mind that I currently only need 40-60 bales a year it would be cheaper to buy the hay rather than have my own cut by somebody else. Farmers here don't want a share of the hay. They only work for cash and it's also hard to find somebody with a small baler. Most farmer only make large round bales which I can neither handle nor store as I don't have a barn or a tractor.
I don't have any grazers (pigs root after eating the grass and goats are browser eating my newly planted trees first).
I would love to put sheep on my grazing but I can't afford the fencing this year so it will have to wait until I made some money from the land first and can fence some of the grazing in.

So I am a bit in a catch 22 situation.... and it seems such a waste each year to not make any hay. I managed to make one bale last year and the goats just had it and they absolute loved it. Never seen them eat hay with such enthusiasm.


 
L. Jones
Posts: 80
Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
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Scythe Sharpening

There's more on that site, look around.

A hand-powered baler-press.

Hand Baling hay

The plans (well the vertical baler is more of a picture and a list than what I'd call "plans"):

In PDF, press "plans" are at end of docment:
Vertical baler

It's billed as being for pinestraw (aka pine needles) but a baler is a baler, and it's what the haying page above is using.

A video of the vertical baler

Looking at this video, I can see a few easy improvements - either a looped rope or a weight to hold the press bar down, and adding more hay after the first compression stroke.

Here's a horizontal version, with more plan-like plans.

Horizontal baler plans

I like the vertical baler more after looking at them both more - I'm just adding a few things to this post. The tying method is much better on the vertical setup, and this really has no pressing at all - just a ramming effect. Also seems much slower.

I think a more general press with variable working parts would be of greater use on most homesteads. ie, make bales, press cider or grapes or oil or cheese, briquette fuels etc. all with one press and multiple/switchable pressing parts. Stefan mentioned ruins - might be able to simplify construction by bolting a hinge to a wall or post and using a fairly long lever.

A UK article from someone claiming to be closer to you:
why every permaculturst should own a scythe

Which was mentioned in this thread here:
scythes
 
Lloyd George
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a walk behind sickle bar mower is also an option. me I would rather have the scythe...used properly it id faster and easier..
 
Abe Connally
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do you really think a sickle mower is harder and slower than a scythe? I used a scythe to cut several tons of hay last year, and I'm doing it again this year. I am happy with it, but I do get tired after a full day mowing. I wonder if a sickle bar mower would be a bit easier, or at least cut faster. I'm getting about 1/2-3/4 an acre (alfalfa/timothy/orchard grass) in 3-4 hours with the scythe.
 
R Scott
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Depends on the terrain. On smooth terrain the walk behind sickle will smoke the scythe. But you will spend more time gathering as it isn't already in windrows like with the scythe. On rough rocky or tree filled ground the scythe wins.
 
Abe Connally
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yeah I can see that. I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to work out a rake for the sickle. I am working in orchards, which means everything is perfectly level. Sometimes the borders are a bit too close together, and it makes it hard to have a wide swing with the scythe.
 
Stefan Pagel
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Thanks for all the links. Very useful. I had seen the horizontal baler and dismissed it as it looks too hard on the back, but the vertical one seems like something that would work well.
I think I may have to invest into a new scythe as the blade on this old one is rather battered and I don't think I will get it back into shape by myself.
The link to the guy who does courses in Scotland was particularly helpful. I searched for courses in Scotland but couldn't find anything. I will attend his next course in August as he is only a 6 hour drive away.
Then I just need to have the hand baler ready, the rocket mass heater built and the ruin rebuilt and a roof put on.... no pressure then...lol.
 
L. Jones
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Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
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Here's one you might have to scale UP to make useful. It does, however, make them continuously like a "normal" baler, presumably having a slight taper to provide resistance so they are compressed. It makes me chuckle, but also causes me to recall someone saying they had found an unexpectedly huge market for tiny bales at fairs, etc. - presumably they make other people chuckle, and pry their wallets open...

Mini Baler

 
Lloyd George
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I do think the scythe is easier and faster...under most conditions...consider the hours used up in maintaining the mower, hauling in fuel, making the money to buy the fuel...making the money to replace several hundred or several thousand dollar mower at some point...

Nah, I am not that anal, But a scythe makes alot of sense in a small haying operation, even if you do have a mechanical mower of some sort as well.

A neighbor of mine, who I try to help out with some stuff, has given me permission to take hay off of about two acres of fescue/timothy and clover...my baby goats ought to eat well this winter.
 
Rob Sigg
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Stefan Pagel wrote:The pigs love it but the goats don't and it's very hard to bale...


The goats wont eat the grass cut by a mower, but will if its cut by a scythe? Is it because of the length of the grass? I have a weedwhacker, Im wondering if that would do the trick for hay. Ive also heard not to give goats 1st cuttings...Im not sure what that means do you?
 
Stefan Pagel
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Goats are browsers and prefer rough stuff. Mowed grass is very short. Goats prefer flower heads, grass gone to seed etc.
First cuttings vary depending when they are cut. Not sure why goats shouldn't have it but it may be because it will be very rich and the goats get fat...
 
Abe Connally
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first cutting is usually more "stemmy" and not as rich. The second cut is the rich, leafy cut.
 
Rose Black
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Stefan Pagel wrote:I watched several videos about how to use the scythe but I bought an old one second hand and I don't think I know well enough what to do with the blade. It was hard work getting it to cut the grass. Also our terrain isn't flat and I kept cutting into soil and old plant matter from years of leaving the place unattended.
I wouldn't mind using a reel/cylinder mower but the one I had wasn't coping with the lumps and bumps and my back wasn't happy neither. I also need the grass to be fairly long and the mower couldn't cope with that neither.

Piling up hay is not an option in our weather up here. We have large bales of hay going walkabouts in the wind, 40-60mph is a regular occurrence with the odd 80-120mph, so I need to store it inside which means having to stack it to save space.

But first it needs to be cut and I am not sure how to do that. I would buy a machine if it wasn't so costly....


My hay making days are 30+ years in the past. Haymaking machinery may well have improved since then.

But just in case they haven't... if you have bumpy ground the very last thing you want is haymaking machinery. Every little lump and bump will stop you in your tracks and you will have to turn off the machine, get down and get everything aligned properly again. After awhile, you'll start shortcutting on the "turn off the machine" part. And that raises the chances of having a horrible, gore filled accident quite a bit.

A good scythe is razor sharp and should be almost effortless to cut each swathe. The blade floats on the surface of the ground, so it doesn't cut in. My guess would be that you need to learn how to properly peen and whet the blade or learn the correct technique for using one.
 
Rose Black
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Stefan Pagel wrote: I tried to find somebody to teach me the art of using and sharpening a scythe but I live in a VERY remote area where plenty old folk don't like incomers. Many many people do not like to share their knowledge and the few that do are not easily found by people like myself.


I have a general suggestion for you. Knowledge is valuable. Time is valuable. Respect is valuable. Demonstrate you know these things.

When you go looking for local knowledge, don't go empty handed. Take a generous portion of the local tipple with you, more than will be consumed in one session. Take home made desserts or other such treats; I have gotten more by asking with a plate of homemade triple chocolate brownies (a very rich, cake like confection) than I could possible list.

Don't be a leech. Don't only appear when you want something. Make sure you appear just to socialise or to help out with your target's projects at least 3 times as often as you show up wanting information or help. Always show up with local tipple and homemade desserts or other such treats in hand.

You may never be accepted as "one of us." But you can be accepted as being a good neighbour that everyone welcomes.
 
Lloyd George
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A reel mower will not work...they are strictly for grooming...

No matter how you approach it, making hay is a hard work chore, and there are many, many ways to do it...

Not having a scythe (yet) I cut about 300 pounds yesterday with a string trimmer, raked it banked it, and am going out to spread it to dry in a bit.
 
R Scott
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L. Jones wrote:Here's one you might have to scale UP to make useful. It does, however, make them continuously like a "normal" baler, presumably having a slight taper to provide resistance so they are compressed. It makes me chuckle, but also causes me to recall someone saying they had found an unexpectedly huge market for tiny bales at fairs, etc. - presumably they make other people chuckle, and pry their wallets open...

Mini Baler



When I was a kid, my grandpa made me real tiny bales to use with my Ertl toy baler. It came with little green styrofoam bales (about the size of an icecube) but he made me REAL bales that size. I am still amazed by the stuff he made, even moreso now that I have tried to make some of it for my kids.


I have seen larger versions of that baler that made closer to half-size bales--some were for hay and some were for packing plastic bags for recycling.

I like this version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=fvwp&v=rVvceG7bDJE
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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L. Jones wrote:
Stefan Pagel wrote:I watched several videos about how to use the scythe but I bought an old one second hand and I don't think I know well enough what to do with the blade. It was hard work getting it to cut the grass. Also our terrain isn't flat and I kept cutting into soil and old plant matter from years of leaving the place unattended.


So....you probably have a dull, possibly abused blade and quite possibly have not yet learned to get it razor sharp.

It won't cut well, unless and until it's razor sharp. How possible that is may depend on how much it's been abused. It also depends on you learning to sharpen it.

Try to find some old guy that will show you how for a few pints. You likely won't actually learn well enough in one session, but if you at least get it sharpened adequately you'll have some idea how it should cut when sharp, and you can then gauge your progress on sharpening as you keep trying, then buy a few more pints and move your learning along after you've had some practice.

You've probably heard the old saying "practice makes perfect" but you may not fully appreciate it until after you've learned an old-fashioned manual labor skill.

It will take most people a weeks work to work up to moderately bad at it. And they'll discover all sorts of new aches and pains from muscles they haven't used, or haven't used in that way. They'll probably also be working way too hard at it, as compared to someone practiced at the skill. In a month they might be passable. Give it a few years and they may actually be tolerably good, if they keep at it. Perceptive types will still be picking up fine points 40 years on. Not so perceptive types know everything in 15 minutes and never learn more - nor do they improve.

Given that it's at least partly a physical skill, you also need to work into it to some extent - go out and practice cutting for only half an hour to an hour a day, since you seem to have plenty of grass to play with. Work up to more time gradually. You may also need to adjust the handles. If you can't dry what you cut while "practicing", just get the animals to eat it.

So, your terrain is not flat, and you cut into soil and clumps of plant matter. Machine would not love either of those, you at least have the hope of learning to look for those things and adjust your swing to miss them. I'd be surprised if your swing was at all accurate yet. It may take a while, but you stand a much better chance of getting there than a machine does.

You may also want to clear an area that you'll plan to mow for hay of clumps and humps, letting your grazers work on the rest of your land with the untouched humps and clumps, thus making for fewer obstacles to cut into as you are mowing.

Much the same learning curve applies to using a mowing machine, actually, but certain aspects are dumbed down, and many folks also blame the machine for things that are more probably operator error (it wouldn't like trying to cut the dirt either, for instance - nor does it work well when dull) - certainly machines break a lot more in inexperienced hands than experienced ones.


Bingo. I'm not an old duffer but I've made studying the American scythe a topic of personal study and all of the above is very sound advice. I'd be more than happy to help troubleshoot any issues you have with the scythe. There's a lot to it, but it all starts with having a sharp blade, the hafting angle set properly for the material you're cutting, and the nibs (handles) at the right height and rotation. I've been working on writing a guide on the subject. Check out the videos of me mowing on my YouTube channel for some examples of the technique in action. Pictures of your scythe will also help--if it's a vintage one there are lots of different different mounting methods so adjusting the blade will depend on what you're got!
 
Mike Schuller
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Here's a super simple Baler Box that could work well just dump the grass in and tie it together once full.

I couldn't help but think that every homesteader would find it useful to make/purchase a multi-use press for making CEB's, grass bales, fuel blocks and whatever else you can think of.

Anywho just my 2 cents.

~Mike
 
Austin Max
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I'm surprised no one here has mentioned haystacks. This article is worth checking out. http://thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/an-offbeat-way-to-make-good-hay/ He is still using a rotary mower and hay rake, but his stacking method is pretty interesting. There are tons of ways to make smaller stacks as well, I like a small stack over a wooden a-frame that lets air flow through the whole stack.
 
Stefan Pagel
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Hay stacks will not work at all in our climate. It is far too windy up here, we struggle to keep the roof on our sheds and have to bolt our trampolines etc. to the ground, otherwise they go flying. A haystack wouldn't last a week....
 
Ryan Basye
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I will collect my grass clippings in 55 gallon barrels. I put it right from the grass collector to the barrel after mowing it. I will jump up and down inside to compact it as much as possible. To top it off I use a large garbage bag over the top cinched down by a tire sidewall "rubber band" that I cut out with razor blades when I was buiding my tire walls for my root cellar. My Guinea Hogs got along on it just fine last winter on two year old left over silage from when I had sheep a while back.
I thought I was original with this until an old timer told me his landlord did it to feed his chickens back in the day. He said to pour hot water on it for the chickens. I haven't tried that one yet.
 
Lloyd George
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Since we live in flippin hurricane central, I am hand baling my hay this year...built a vertical box hay press, and just about as soon as I get sone time and energy ahead, I am going to build a bigger one...simple deal...vertcal box, with two slots in either side, for hte twine to feed through...grooves in the bottom for hte twine to sit in....a lever with a presser foot from above. and a door in front to take the bale out...pull hte twine through, secure it, cram the box full of hay, sqish with lever, add more if desired...sqush, remove lever, tire off twine, open door, remove bale...lather , rinse, repeat. works well, and I have baled a bunch of hay already this spring...also..build yourself a smaller baler, say, about decoration size, go buy a few three dollar bales of wheat or oat straw, disassemble them, reassemble them into cutsie table top decoration bales, and hawk 'em for five bucks apiece at the farmers market along with all the other cool shi....errr...merchandise....lol.

Agritourists in particular seem anxious to pee themselves over buying cute little straw bales.

Google "pine straw baler" There is a set of plans floating around out there..I probably got the link from this site, but I am sort o stupid, and cannot remember...lol..have fun.
 
Ryan Basye
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Gene Logsdon or Joel Salitin once mentioned that animals like loose hay rather than baled and the big round balea least of all. Children like it a lot better as well, especially if you can climb really high in the loft when Mother isn't around, (but Dads there just I case).
 
Annie Hope
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Hi,

I am hoping that this will flag to all those who replied before. We are writing from New Zealand - so the start of summer. We bought a house last year which has 8 acres in 10 paddocks. We bought it in early February and occupied it the end of April. The two largest paddocks had been left fallow as the previous owners were going to make hay on them, they said that the hay-makers did not like to take the machines in the smaller paddocks, and some have a sand bar down them, or uneven ground anyway. When we got here in april, we found they never had, as it was too wet. We are slowly building up our stock numbers, but probably we could run them all on one or two acres. So we have to large paddocks (2-3 acres) with two years of growth (I think mainly timothy and orchard grass) and 8 paddocks (5-6 acres) of this year's growth. The grain seems to be flowering and shedding pollen right now. We are looking at cutting and storing some, and buying some 3 month old calves to feed for a year and sell when our own stock breed enough to fill the farm. It will cost us NZ$3 a bale to cut it, then we would have to wheelbarrow it to the hay shed ourselves, but we can not get anyone willing to come and cut even our largest paddocks yet. We are wondering the cost effectiveness of just doing it ourselves when my husband makes about $9-10 an hour after tax, travelling to work etc. is factored in. We are in NZ so could probably not get a scythe easily for this season, it would have to be the weed-eater. We have the following 101 haymaking questions.

1) It looks like it will take 3-6 hours to cut an acre of hay but how much time to turn it, collect it and cart it to a shed?

2) What sort of yield would I get per acre in terms of small square bales or kg of hay?

3) how much hay would we need? Presuming that we have about 5 months total with no grass growth over a dry summer and a cold winter, how much hay per day would we need to feed a 6 month old calf or a adult goat?

4) how many years will had store if we save it now for future years when our own stock numbers grow naturally.

5) when is it best to cut the hay - before it flowers? when it flowers? when it starts to for seed? (I read a old saying after it flowers but before the seed drops, but not sure if this goes for very coarse grass like orchard grass).

6) What about the orchard grass that is two years old? it has a lot of dead stringy grass at the stem base that makes cutting hard, and it is easier to cut it higher. If we cut it 6-8 inches high is there any nutrients in this or is it mainly stork? Will the base eventually die back, or do we really need to get in there an cut it short and then maintain this?

7) Finally - we are fencing our hens in the orchard as "their" domain. It has quite a bit of orchard grass that I have read they will not eat unless it is young. i have also read how nutritious it is for horses. What about for hens, is it worth leaving it there for them or pulling it out and planting something like clover or alfalfa?

Annie
 
R Scott
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Here is a blog about harvesting wheat by hand just to give you an idea on the amount of work and time involved. http://www.rural-revolution.com/2012/08/harvesting-wheat.html

I have been buying old hay equipment cheap--stuff that is too small by today's standards. It paid for itself (not including the tractor) in the first year over the price of hiring baling. If you can find a sickle mower and rake you can do the rest with pitchforks and a trailer. I pull my hay rake with my pickup. I have seen old horse drawn sickle mowers you could do the same. Or run from small utility tractors.

Just think about how you want to spend your money vs. time.
 
Roy Clarke
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Lloyd George wrote:a walk behind sickle bar mower is also an option. me I would rather have the scythe...used properly it id faster and easier..


A few years late I know, but we have just done a timed cut of 1/8 acre with a sickle bar mower, it took 18:22. That's mins:secs, not hrs:mins. Compare that with about 2 hours for many people who use scythes. Less tiring overall, but hard on the wrists and forearms.
 
bob jarvis
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Just a note:

40 mph wind is Beaufort force 8 (fresh gale) - twigs and small branches get snapped off of trees
60 mph wind is Beaufort force 10 (whole gale) - trees are broken, structural damage to buildings occurs
80 mph wind is Beaufort force 12 (hurricane) - widespread violence and destruction

If you've got this much wind blowing I suggest that hay-making will be impossible, as the grass will be blown downwind the instant it's cut, certainly before it can dry.

If you have several acres of grass to cut, I'd say the you should forget the scythe. It's romantic, it's good exercise, but it's maddeningly slow and rather exhausting. At 50 years of age I could handle it, barely. Now that I'm closing down on 60 at speed, forget it. I bought a BCS walk-behind unit a few years ago and have never looked back. Sickle-bar mower for cutting the grass, hand rakes for raking and turning, and a good hay fork for picking it up and we're good to go.

As far as the idea that a scythe is somehow more efficient than a sickle-bar mower because the scythe dumps the grass in a windrow - I disagree. The sickle-bar is more efficient because it *doesn't* put the cut grass into a window - instead, it leaves it spread out so it will dry faster.

My procedure for hay production by hand is:

Day 1:
1. Mow the grass with the BCS and sickle-bar mower. Try to do this on a sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing, after the sun has had a chance to dry the dew that's on the grass - so we're looking at somewhere between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM to do the mowing. Let's say we'll mow it at 1:00 PM, just for the sake of argument.

2. Let the grass sit loose on the ground for the rest of the afternoon to dry - until about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.

3. Rake the grass into windrows. To do this, reach out with your hay rake, set the tines on the ground, hold the handle low, and pull the cut grass back to you in a smooth pull without flipping it over. This should leave the dry grass on top. Continue doing this the entire length of the windrow.

4. Walk back to the beginning of the windrow and flip the windrow over so the dry grass is on the bottom and the wet grass is on the top. To do this, slip the tines of the hay rake under the windrow and pull it upwards and slightly back to you so that the windrow "rolls over". Continue along the windrow until the entire row is flipped over.

5. Repeat the process of raking the cut grass into windrows and flipping the row over until all the grass is in windrows.

6. Leave it alone until tomorrow morning.

........

Day 2:
7. The next morning - at this point you've got grass in windrows with a lot of dew on it. Leave it alone until maybe 10:00 AM, when most of the dew will be off it and the ground surrounding the windows should be pretty much dry.

8. Flip all the windrows over and spread them out a bit to dry. To spread (or "ted") the rows, take your hay rake in hand, stand over the windrow, and use the tines of the rake in a side-to-side motion to knock the windrow apart. Walk backwards down the windrow, tedding it to open it up so it will dry. The purpose here is to open up the windrow so that any wet grass that's buried in the windrow will be exposed to sun and wind.

9. 4:00 or 5:00 PM - go out, rake the hay into windrows again, roll the windrow over, and let it sit for the night.

........

Day 3:
10. Guess what you get to do today? Yep, you're going to wait until the ground is dry, ted the rows out and let the hay dry a bit more.

11. At about 5:00 PM, just when it's nice and hot and sweaty, go rake the hay into windrows again. Now, check the hay. If the grass in the windrow feels dry all the way through it's time to bring the hay in. If it *doesn't* feel dry all the way through, go back to step 9 and wait until tomorrow, where you'll start at step 10 again. If the hay *does* feel dry (and the right feeling is "crunchy-dry") it's time to bring the hay in! You need to get this done before the dew starts to fall, so don't think this is easy and/or you've got plenty of time. Work quickly but safely!

12. Because you'll be picking the hay up today it's a good idea to rake two or three drying rows into a single pickup row.

13. Take your hay fork (three tines, and lighter than a manure fork), put it under the end of a windrow, hold the handle low to the ground, and PUUUSH lengthwise down the windrow to make a big pile of hay. Go as far as you reasonably can along the row, then walk around the pile of hay you just made, gather up the hay in the row and PUUUSH that hay into another pile! Sweat. Drink plenty of fluids. Repeat.

14. Go get whatever it is you're going to use to transport the hay from where it is in the field to your hay storage location. Let's say, for sake of argument, you're using a pickup truck to haul your nice fresh hay to your barn. Drive the truck into the field (the ground should be pretty dry - after all, you're making hay in the summer, not in the spring or fall!), drive up to a pile of hay, pick the pile of hay up using your hay fork, and dump it into the back of the truck. Sweat. Drink plenty of fluids. Repeat until the truck is full.

15. Drive the truck to your hay storage location. Use your hay fork to get the hay out of the truck. Sweat. Etc.

16. Repeat 14-15 until there is no hay left in the field. Remember, you need to get this done before the dew starts to form on the grass or else you'll be putting wet grass into your barn, which is not a good thing.

17. Put all your tools and equipment away.

18. Go get something cold to drink. Enjoy watching the grass grow. You deserve it.
 
Travis Johnson
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A lot has already been covered so just a few pointers on the high points here:

No one should feed their livestock grass clippings or graze their lawn. Because of the grow/cut cycle is so quick in duration it builds up toxins within the plants that can actually kill your animals.

Back in the day a hired hand who could not get 3 acres mown in a day was terminated, where as 5 was considered really good.

My experience with a sickle bar mower has been really good, but its limiting factor was my endurance in walking behind it. Having a little sulky that towed me around would have been much easier

Loose hay is superior in quality to baled hay because it contains more protein and nutrients

Loose hay is a contradiction in terms. It survives in a haystack (and high winds) because it is incredibly heavy and packs unbelievably so

Most animals can be fed silage as well a hay and you get more tonnage to the acre. When I had only a few sheep I used a 5 hp lawn chipper and a chainsaw to cut standing stalks of corn and it was identical in quality in what came out our dairy farms 250,000 chopper. (1/4 inch cut, cracked kernals)

Almost all animals can survive on grass or corn silage. I had a pony that thrived on it all one winter along with my sheep. My sheep nutritionist suggests a 60% grass silage/40% corn silage mix. The point is you do not have to feed livestock hay. Other options exist. (Baby animals are the exception) They need hay, but who cannot afford a bale or two for them if the operation is small scale?

Myself, I HATE hay. It takes a lot of equipment to put up, it takes a lot of time from cut to in the barn, and its quality suffers with amazing ease.

 
Dan Grubbs
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As I read the thread, I'm wondering if taking a different grazing management approach would be better than mowing all the hay you believe you need for winter and all the labor that is involved in storing it or silage-ing it. Grazing is a land management tool and you can mob graze pretty deep into winter and earlier in the spring than most people realize. Animals are pretty resilient. I know goats aren't all that happy about being out in weather, but even goats have some adaptation capability. You might want to look into multi-species mob grazing and how various grazing techniques can carry you longer into winter and start again earlier in the summer. I'm always of the opinion that the grass is more nutritious when its not cut. Something to consider.
 
Travis Johnson
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But that is not how it works. Silage and hay is a preservation technique for plants/grass and there are many variables. Some of the best forms of grass to graze due to nitrogen fixation, do not lend themselves well to mob grazing; alfalfa being one of them. And just about everyone knows it is not how haying is done, but when. It is no different than eating a sun ripened tomato right off the vine; now that has flavor, but canning it preserves the nutritional value...granted you may lose a little, but nothing like what it would lose if it was allowed to wilt away to nothing and die, which is what dead winter grass would be. Absolutely no protein content whatsoever.

If I cut my grass ground in June instead of August, the protein content of that grass is going to be twice to three times higher than it is if I cut it in August. The problem is the yield, also expressed as tonnage per acre per harvest. So there is this trade-off. In order to get the same tonnage of feed for the year, I must cut it 5 times instead of twice, but my feed will be better and I'll have to feed less of it, and have less waste. The trade off: burning more diesel fuel as I am mowing hay that is a foot tall instead of 3 feet tall.

A few years ago there was a book circulating around regarding grass fed beef where the author was doing some amazing stuff with winter grazing. It was interesting what he was doing, but like most things in farming, it adapted itself quite well to his locale, but could not be replicated everywhere. I live in New England and it cannot be done here. I get the concept, reduce costs, take a hit on condition, niche market it as grass fed only, and make up what you lost eventually on the other side, but try that in the 3rd gestation period with sheep and you lose a pile of lambs. It can not be replicated with a sheep breed that does not breed out of season, nor does it work in New England. Still there are things I can do to extend the season.

I wish I had planting winter rye after the corn is chopped last fall as the ground never really froze this year which would have made for some good grazing in December and March, but I didn't because the cost of tillage and seed was on the cusp of what more hay would cost, not to mention the variables of snow depth, and other factors.

You guys (and gals) know me by now, I am all about conservation to get the most from my farm and I have learned the best way to do that is the lowly ole computer. Using a spreadsheet (Excel) I track a lot of information and use the last few years of data averaging to predict what my future needs will be. How? Well I know 7 out of 8 years I was able to put my sheep on pasture by the second week of April. Last year it was the 4th week of April, but it was a harsh winter. Still by getting an 8 year average of my winter feed days, I can predict how much hay they are going to need and be really close. As the winter wears on, I can decide if I am over or under my target on a day by day basis, and chose whether or not to keep or sell my hay. That is profitable. In this way I am not doing what most farmers do here which is starve their livestock half the winter "just in case" and then in the Spring have 100 tons of feed they don't need and have to get rid of as "last years hay" (very little profit).

BTW: I do this with firewood too, so I always have enough for myself if needed, but just enough. By selling hay in the late-winter, you get a really good price for it, because no one has dry firewood then.
 
Travis Johnson
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The above post was good information for everyone, but did not really address Stefan's problem.

My suggestion is this, dispense with the idea of the rocket heater drying you hay. The extra work of obtaining wood to feed it, not to mention build it, would be more problematic than it would be worth. Drying hay in the sun works quite well, and obtaining a sickle bar mower either through renting or purchase would be justifiable. It would also allow you to harvest saplings and such. Since goats are browsers, you could reduce your overall requirement for hay by including saplings into their diet. That extra hay could go to the pigs for feed.

An alternative may be to grow corn instead. You are not talking about a lot of feed here and corn takes even less equipment to make then hay. I'll assume you can bust sod and grow corn, so a small chainsaw can be utilized to fell the stalks and then hauled on a hand cart (or sled) to a hand lawn mower. Cut a chunk out of the top deck with a grinder wheel or drill a 4 inch hole with a drill and hole saw just above the tip of the blade. By doing so you have just made a corn stalk chipper and use the chopped stalks, ears and all as feed for your goats. I would still give the goats some hay, but between the browse, corn silage and hay, they would be getting some realy good nutrition.

Just be sure the kids ONLY get hay. Baby animals will starve to death on silage alone due to the high moisture content. Their small bellies lack enough size to pack in enough nutrion since silage is 2/3 water. This isn't an issue with adult animals however.
 
Andrew Morse
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It has been a while since the OP has posted, but I think perhaps he was speaking in kilometers per hour instead of mph for wind... I think 75kph is roughly 45mph. A friend of mine got a speeding ticket in Canada years ago due to his reading 75 and thinking in mph.

Does anyone have experience with the Alpine style of harvesting hay/fodder on hillsides and sending it in nets via pulley/zipline systems to the barn? I've seen a video on this and it seems it would solve the OP's and my own problem with steep/uneven terrain and storage/wind issues.
 
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ...   2016 PDC and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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