Agriculture & Livestock: Haying season 2011 |

Agriculture & Livestock: Haying season 2011

Diane Prather

Diane Prather

Ranch work is identified by the "season," each one coinciding with the time of the year.

For example, there's calving season, lambing season and gathering season.

But right now, it's haying season that's in full swing.

It's interesting to ponder what might be "normal" weather for haying season — maybe hot and pretty much dry. However, some years are way too dry, like the drought of a few years ago. Others are too wet so that it's hard to get the hay dry.

This year, Northwest Colorado residents have been heard to say, "This is the strangest year that I've ever seen."

Indeed. The spring season seemed to be about two weeks late in getting here. It took longer than usual for the hay to mature, and then there were the rains and humidity. Some ranchers are hoping for a better crop of hay with the second cutting.

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But, generally speaking, haying season is marked by the following, no matter what the year is like:

• While driving on the highway, you're apt to come up behind a vehicle with flasher lights on. It's following a tractor, also with its lights flashing, because haying equipment is being moved from one field to another.

• Fields are in various stages of haying, rows of cut hay (sometimes raked) that's drying or rows of bales that are ready to be picked up.

• Loads of hay are being transported in anything from a small trailer to a large flatbed or by a semi trailer, and they're being moved in every direction along the highway.

• Small bales, larger rectangular bales and round bales of different sizes can be seen in fields.

• Ranchers may find that a haying machinery breakdown will require two weeks or more before a mechanic can get to the repairs.

• At implement dealerships, the person in charge of ordering parts for hay equipment is busy, indeed. That goes for the mechanic, too.

• Hay yards, where hay is stored for winter, are filling up.

• "Finished" hay stacks are being covered with tarps.

• Ranchers can be seen walking around fields of cut hay, checking to see if it's ready to bale.

• In fields where hay has been baled, second cutting is starting to grow. In some places it's growing up around bales that haven't been picked up.

• Some bales, while green on the inside, are brown on the outside, having been left out to dry after rain.

• Deer or antelope (this year perhaps even elk) can be seen rubbing on bales in the field.

• In some fields, big round bales have been gathered into "groups," to be carried to the hay yard later on.

• Even though you can't see a field you know haying is going on because you can hear the "ker-thunk, ker-thunk" rhythm of the baler as it moves across the field.

• Entire families work in the hay field.

• Farm and ranch stores are selling lots of twine and different kinds of machinery oil.

• Full-service gas stations and tire stores repair and sell haying machinery tires of every size.

• The "wild" hay is the last to mature.

• The hay is so tall that the deer are almost hidden in it.

• Where the hay has been cut, the fields look as if they're "beautifully manicured."

It's haying season.

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