WESTOVER, W.Va. – Over the past 100 years, hay has been one of the most plentiful and important crops for farmers across West Virginia.
However, because of above average rainfall, it has been difficult for agricultural producers to get their forage put up correctly.
“We can’t get it up because of all the rain. Your hay needs to be dry if you’re going to be dry baling it,” said Gordon Lawson of Hidden Valley Farm.
When dry baling hay, the forecast needs to be just right.
“We’ve got clear skies, low humidity for three days, our temperatures are in the 70s, maybe the low 80s where we need it. We have a little bit of air movement. So if you’re making dry hay, this is the weather we’ve been waiting for,” said H.R. Scott of the Monongalia County Extension Service.
Once the conditions are ideal, the three-day process of baling hay can begin.
First, the grass has to be mowed and then the field has to be tedded on day one. Tedding the hay moves the forage around to aerate and dry it, so that moisture can be wrung out of the grass.
The farmer then comes back the next day, and rolls it into the windrows waiting for moisture to drop below 20 percent.
On the third day, the hay is then picked up by the hay baler which creates the round shape of the bale.
Once, the hay is a massive cylinder, it is wrapped in a netting and then let out of the baler.
Farmers said that it’s very important to test the hay to make sure that the moisture level is 20 percent or less and that if the meter says low, you are good to go.
The hay also has to be tested for its nutrients to make sure that the cattle are being properly fed because the hay only has a one year shelf-life.
“The reason being for the short shelf-life is while it is laying on the ground the bale will draw moisture. Sunlight’s going to work on it. Hawks can tear into it. Other things can come into it and as that happens it makes that shelf life shorter,” explained Scott.
And with all of the hay needed to feed the hungry cows, the buffet of hay needs to last as long as possible.