How to Make Hay Into Winter Feed

| 4/24/2013 11:11:00 AM

Editor in Chief Hank Will, in his International.If you have an acre or two of meadow but not the machinery or neighbors to hay it, you can easily put up sufficient provender to feed a small flock of ewes or goats through the winter. All you need is an Austrian-style scythe, hand hay rake and hay fork to get it all done.

Daunting as it may sound, our ancestors routinely made hay by hand and put away many tons of it for winter feeding. You can too if you’re ready to trade in that gym membership for some real work. In the past few years, I’ve put up close to 5 tons a season using this easy going approach.

In the mornings, when the dew is still on the grass, sharpen your scythe and mow as much as you can in about an hour. Once you get the hang of it, your efforts will yield lovely swaths of mowed forage. Let the swaths dry for a day or two in the sun. Turn them with a wooden hay rake if the hay isn’t drying evenly.

When dry, rake the hay into piles and pitch it into the back of your pickup or onto a wagon or tarp and haul or drag it back to the barn where you can pile it out of the weather.

Once you get the process going, you can scythe in the morning, rake and haul the hay that’s ready in the evening and turn any swaths that need turning. Keep at it for a month and you'll find that your stack is sufficiently large to keep the animals going through the winter months and you just might need a shorter belt.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The how to make hay tips above appeared in Episode 21, “Hay Fever.”

4/28/2013 3:58:48 PM

Hank, I've been watching a youtube series put out by the BBC about life in the 17th century. It's called "Tales of the Green Valley". Three people decide to live as they did in the 1600s on a farm. It's quite interesting to watch how every thing had to be done with hand tools. Many were made by themselves. They would scythe the hay. The historian of the three claimed that an average day of cutting hay back then was one acre. Most of their rakes and pitch forks were nothings more that specially selected tree branches that had forks in the right places. It was quite an interesting series and of course the British country side really makes me yearn to have rock walls and buildings but since their are no rocks in the soil here in Nebraska, that probably won't happen.

Steadman White
4/26/2013 3:05:24 PM

I remember using a scythe as a youth. Also used a sickle. Work? Yes! But I was too concerned about feding my own horse to care how much work it was. Of course, that was over 60 years ago as well.

Stephen Wilhelm
4/24/2013 5:14:06 PM

Hay bales seem to be all over the place these days from really low pricing to outrageous prices. And the same goes for quality with many people baling weeds, ditches, and the side of highways. And wet, moldy bales seem quite common too. I sell bales of hay and know that good quality hay doesn’t come cheap, but should be reasonable too. However, some people are getting tricked into buying or settling for hay that is good for mulching, but should be kept away from farm animals and horse stables at all costs!

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