Where Does Hay Come From

Where does hay come from? We live in the middle of a hay field, and it's super cool to watch the hay grow and be harvested. 

Types of Hay

There are different types of hay. There is alfalfa and clover hay, and there are many different varieties of grass hay. Alfalfa and clover are legumes. Alfalfa and clover hay has more protein and calcium than grass hay. 

Depending on the climate, farmers get two to four crops of hay each year. Where we live, we get three crops of hay each year. Because the hay does not grow as quickly in the spring and fall, first and third crops are the most nutritious. 

Where does hay come from to feed different kinds of animals? Dairy cows will produce more milk when they are fed first and third crop alfalfa hay. Horses are usually fed grass hay or grass-alfalfa hay. Beef cows are given alfalfa hay to help maintain them before they calve.

Cutting, Raking, and Baling the Hay

A swather is used to cut the hay. It is like a giant lawnmower except it doesn’t blow hay all over the place. A swather uses cutting discs to cut hay. A reel helps the hay fall neatly onto a conveyor auger which moves it and drops it into a windrow.

After the hay is dry, the farmer rakes the hay. He uses a giant rake to rake two small windrows into one big windrow. The hay that was on the bottom of small windrows is turned, so that it is on the top of the larger windrow. This helps the wet hay that was on the ground finish drying before it is baled.

When the hay is dry and brittle, it is ready to be baled. If hay is too wet when it is baled, it will mold or catch fire.

A tractor straddles the windrow as it pulls the baler. The pick-up-teeth rake the hay up into the baler. When the hay bale is full size, it is wrapped in baling twine and dropped out the back of the baler. 

There are different shapes and sizes of hay bales. There are big rectangular bales, little rectangular bales, and big round bales. 

After the hay has been baled, it is moved off the field and loaded on semi trucks. A tractor is needed to pick up these large bales of hay. These bales are 3 feet tall 4 feet wide and eight feet long. They weigh 1400 pounds.

They hay is hauled away and used to feed animals throughout the world. 

Some of the hay is stored in barns and used to feed local animals.

Where does hay come from around the world?

In many parts of the world, they don't have room to grow hay for their animals. Most of the hay from this field will be compressed. These large bales will be taken to a plant where the are chopped and pressed into smaller bales until they are about as dense as particle board. These smaller bales will then be loaded in containers and shipped to countries around the world.

Watering Hay

There are three kinds of sprinklers that are used to water hay.

Hand Lines can be carried and and are used to water plants in small areas.

Wheel Lines are rolled. There is a motor that is attached to the line. Every 24 hours, the farmer turns off the water, starts up the motor, and moves the wheeline down the field. 

Pivot Lines are fully automated and move slowly around the field throughout the day. The farmer doesn't need to move these sprinklers. Pivot lines are very complex and are a thorough watering system. The sprinklers closest to the pivot give off less water than the sprinklers on the outer edge of the pivot. There is a big boom at the end of the line that reaches the outer edges of the field. All the hay is watered equally.