Harvesting For Hay

Medium red clover is at its best for cutting for

hay when in full bloom, and when a few of the heads which first bloomed

are beginning to turn brown; that is to say, in the later rather than in

the earlier stage of full bloom. If cut sooner, the curing of the crop

is tedious. If cut later the stalks lose in palatability. But when the

weather is showery it may be better to defer cutting even for several

days after the clover has reached the proper stage for harvesting, as

the injury from rain while the crop is being cured may be greater than

the injury from overmaturity in the same before it is mown.

When curing the crop, the aim should be to preserve to the greatest

extent practicable the loss of the leaves. To accomplish such a result,

the clover ought to be protected as far as possible from exposure to dew

or rain, and also from excessive exposure to sunshine. Dew injures more

or less the color of the hay and detracts from its palatability. Rain

intensifies such injury in proportion as the crop being harvested is

exposed to it. It also washes out certain substances, which, when

present, affect favorably its aroma.

The injury from such exposure increases with the interval between

cutting and storing the crop. Exposure to successive showers may so

seriously injure the hay as to render it almost valueless for feeding.

After the mown clover has been exposed in the swath to the sunlight

beyond a certain time, it turns brown, and if exposed thus long enough

the aroma will be lost. The aim should be, therefore, to cure the clover

to the greatest extent practicable by the aid of the wind rather than by

that of the sun.

The method of procedure to be followed is in outline as given below: Mow

as far as possible when the meadow is not wet with rain or dew. Mow in

the afternoon rather than the forenoon, as the injury from dew the night

following will be less. Stir with the tedder as soon as the clover has

wilted somewhat. The tedder should be used once, twice or oftener as

the circumstances may require. The heavier the crop and the less drying

the weather, the more the tedding that should be given. Sometimes

tedding once, and in nearly all instances twice, will be sufficient. The

hay should then be raked. It is ready for being raked as soon as the

work can be done easily and in an efficient manner. When clover is not

dry enough for being raked, the draught on the rake will be

unnecessarily heavy, the dumping of the hay will be laborious, and it

does not rake as clean as it would if the hay were in a fit condition

for being raked.

The aim should be to have the crop put up in heaps, usually called

cocks, but sometimes called coils, before the second night arrives

after the mowing of the clover; and in order to accomplish this, it may

be necessary to work on until the shades of evening are drawing near.

When there is a reasonable certainty that the weather shall continue

dry, it is quite practicable to cure clover in the winrow, but in

showery weather to attempt to do so would mean ruin to the clover. In no

form does it take injury so quickly from rain as in the winrow, and when

rain saturates it, much labor is involved in spreading it out again. Nor

is it possible to make hay quite so good in quantity when clover is

cured in the winrow, as the surface exposed to the sunshine is much

greater than when it is mixed with timothy or some other grass that

purpose, nevertheless, to cure it thus, especially when it is mixed with

timothy or some other grass that cures more easily and readily than

clover. It may also be taken up with the hay-loader when cured thus,

which very much facilitates easy storing. But when it is to be lifted

with the hay-loader, the winrows should be made small rather than large.

When the clover is to be put up into cocks, these should be small rather

than large, if quick curing is desired. In making these, skilled labor

counts for much. The cocks are simply little miniature stacks. The part

next to the ground has less diameter than the center of the cock. As

each forkful is put on after the first, the fork is turned over so that

the hay spreads out over the surface of the heap as it is being

deposited. Smaller forkfuls are put on as the top is being reached. The

center is kept highest when making the cock. Each one may be made to

contain about 100 pounds and upward of cured hay, but in some instances

they should not contain more than half the amount to facilitate drying.

When the heap has become large enough, the inverted fork should be made

to draw down on every side the loose portions, which in turn are put

upon the top of the cock. Such trimming is an important aid to the

shedding of rain. An expert hand will put up one of these cocks of hay

in less time than it takes to read about how it is done.

A light rain will not very much injure a crop of clover after it has

been put up into cocks, but a soaking rain will probably penetrate them

to the bottom. To guard against this, in localities where the rainfall

may be considerable in harvest time, hay caps are frequently used. These

may be made from a good quality of unbleached muslin or strong cotton,

or they may be obtained from some of those who deal in tent awnings and

stack covers. When of good quality and well cared for they should last

for 10 to 20 years. Care should be taken in putting them on lest the

wind which frequently precedes a thunder storm should blow them away.

The pins used at the corners of the caps should be carefully and firmly

inserted in the hay or the ground, or the caps should have sufficiently

heavy weights attached to them at the corners to prevent their lifting

with the wind. In putting up the hay the size of the cocks should be

adjusted to the size of the covers used. One person should apply the

covers as quickly as two will put up the hay.

When clover hay is put up into cocks, it undergoes what is termed the

heating process; that is, it becomes warm in the center of the heaps

up to a certain point, after which the heat gradually leaves it. The

heat thus generated is proportionate to the size of the cocks and the

amount of moisture in the clover. The sweating process usually covers

two or three days, after which the hay is ready for being stored. When

clover is cured in the winrow, it does not go through the sweating

process to the same extent as when cured in the cock; hence, it is

liable to sweat in the mow, and to such an extent as to induce mold, if

it has been stored away with moisture in it beyond a certain degree. If

a wisp of clover is taken from the least cured portion of the winrow or

cock, and twisted between the hands, it is considered ready for being

stored if no liquid is discernible. If overcured, when thus twisted it

will break asunder. A skilled workman can also judge fairly well of the

degree of the curing by the weight when lifted with the fork.

Under some conditions, it may be advisable to open out the cocks two

or three hours before drawing them, that the hot sunshine may remove

undue moisture. When this is done, if the cocks are taken down in

distinct forkfuls, as it were, each being given a place distinct from

the others, the lifting of these will be much easier than if the clover

in each cock had been strewn carelessly over the ground. The lowest

forkful in the cock should be turned over, since the hay in it will have

imbibed more or less of dampness from the ground. But in some instances

the weather for harvesting is so favorable that the precaution is

unnecessary of thus opening out the cocks or even of making them at all.

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