« Agriculture

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

by Dan Cash

We are in that phase of meteorological progression that long, long ago, gave voice to the admonition, “Make Hay While the Sun Shines.”  You younger folks might have heard that from a member of a more senior generation, and quite properly equated it to something like, “Get it While the Getting is Good.”.  That would be pretty close. The making of hay while the sun shines however had a more direct and specific meaning.  It goes back, of course, to agriculture in the days before mechanization.  The interesting thing about it, is it’s still with us today, even with the incredibly advanced machinery of the 21st Century.

I came across an article the other day that dealt with haymaking, more now, than then, but I was so taken with it - - it’s almost poetry - - that I decided to bring you some of it.  It’s by Jeremy C. Nagel, publications guru at Michigan Farm Bureau Headquarters.  His article starts out with “Among agriculture’s pantheon of unsung heroes and overlooked saints, hay surely ranks near the top.”  That could be expected to catch the attention of a farm kid of  50 or 60 years ago, whose job it was to follow the horse-drawn wagon and hay loader around the field, raking hay away from utility poles, stone piles and whatever other obstruction into the nearest windrow.  Jeremy Nagel speaks almost exclusively about the modern haymaking practice of baling, either rectangular or rolled. 

But, preceding that, the team of draft horses pulled a big wagon up and down the windrows of recently mowed hay.  The trailing loader, looking something like a wagonwide, rolling ladder-like elevator, picked up the windrowed hay, carrying it up and over the top, to the wagon bed, where the adult farmer, like my dad, would spread that hay around the wagon bed for even distribution, until it was about fifteen feet high.  Then it was off to the barn, where big forks descended on a trolley from the interior barn roof, stabbed into a big bite of that wagonload of hay, which was then trolleyed up to a track and across to the end of the barn. 

A trip rope released the forks and the hay fell to the barn floor, or at least to the top of the stack already there.  Unload the wagon and back to the field for another load, always one eye on the sky, alert for a possible rain storm.  Hay needs rain to grow, just as any other plant; but mowed hay that gets wet loses a lot of it’s nutritional value.  Watching the sky won’t keep the rain away, but we watch, anyway.

Cows need hay, whether beef or dairy breeds; all horses need hay, whether ponies, pleasure/saddle horses, thoroughbreds, or draft animals.  So do most sheep and goats.

There’s a ton more interesting information in Jeremy’s article.  I’m guessing a simple phone call would bring the whole package to you.  Call 517-323-6585, and ask for Jeremy.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached atkhguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.