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Published September 28, 2010, 10:12 AM

Hay and harvest drags on

TOWNER, N.D. — I had to use ether to start my rake tractor the other day. It made me wonder what happened to the old-fashioned idea of making hay when it’s 100 degrees and sunny.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I had to use ether to start my rake tractor the other day. It made me wonder what happened to the old-fashioned idea of making hay when it’s 100 degrees and sunny.

The misery of trying to hay and harvest in a balmy 45 degrees with 75 percent humidity has a lot of company this fall, and, although misery loves company, I’d rather be done with it all.

We froze hard last week — the ice-in-the-water-tank at daybreak kind of hard. Made me think I might need to start blending in some No. 1 diesel or fuel conditioner in my mowing tractors as I go forward. A fella should be able to finish haying on No. 2 fuel, you’d think.

The night we froze, I was driving to a pasture at midnight to wrap insulation around the brass pump cylinder on a windmill we use to water some cattle. I knew we were heading for a frost when I could almost do that job by the light of the stars.

I suppose that’s a Northern thing when you look up at a night sky so clear you can see every star and, rather than gaze at its beauty, you run around looking for pumps that aren’t drained, hoses that might burst and pressure washers that need to come inside where it’s warm.

Clouds mean insulation for the earth at night, and without them, the mercury doesn’t have much to stop its freefall.

Our meadow hay that’s been too wet to put up all summer is now too wet and frozen. The quality is far from premium now, but we’re going to keep the mowers attached, wait for a dry spell and get what we can until the grass boards on the end of the cutter bar start ridging up snow.

A matter of perspective

Frozen meadow hay doesn’t have the protein or energy that it did before it froze, but Dad had a theory on the quality of frozen hay. If someone asked him if frozen hay was any good, he’d say, “well, it depends.”

If everything went good and you got all your hay up before the first hard frost, then, most certainly, frozen hay wasn’t worth a hoot. Hardly worth putting it in front of the cows.

But, he’d say, if things got late and you had to put up some of your hay after it froze and that’s all you had to feed, well then that frozen hay wasn’t so bad after all. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Or, as another rancher told me, the frozen hay should be just as good as the grass we’ve all got our cows grazing on out in the pasture after the frost. You don’t see anyone hustling the cowherds home after the frost to start feeding them alfalfa because that darn frozen grass isn’t any good.

I don’t know if I have any feel good theories for the farmers who still have small grains standing out in the field though.

If it’s any consolation, they won’t be the only ones fighting Father Time and Mother Nature to get everything done before the snow flies.

And if you hear the hum of a generator out in the hayfields, it’s just guys like me plugging in the block heaters on our haying tractors to save on the starting fluid.

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