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July 8, 2012

Haymaking can be a challenge

Make hay when the sun shines. 

That sounds easy, but when the forecast changes every couple of days it doesn’t give the part-time farmer much leeway. This past week I used my vacation time as an opportunity to mow hay. While the quality will not be as good, late June/early July weather is more consistently hot and dry than late May or early June. 

For almost a week, the weather held out. On my final field, the forecast cautioned of afternoon thundershowers. I hooked up the mower and spent the afternoon cutting about seven acres of hay. Part of this hay I would bale into small square bales for our four ponies and the rest would be stored away for the beef cows. After tedding the hay to fluff it up and raking it into long spiraling windrows for baling, I had spent many hours on our old tractor. When the last bale was baled, the hay all loaded, and the wagons were backed into the shed, it was a very satisfying feeling.

Within an hour of completing the whole process, it started to sprinkle and then rain; little more than 48 hours after I began.

Without the weather technology that we enjoy today, it probably would not have turned out this well. Not too long ago, farmers would have to gamble on the weather using experience, the farmer’s almanac and local weather history. Today, farmers and growers have access to an amazing number of weather forecasting and monitoring services.

The National Weather Service has a network of 122 local weather-forecast offices covering the United States. Local weather forecasts and live radar images are available via the Internet at any time. All this available technology helps farmers make informed decisions about when to mow hay and plan their harvest. And while it is a great benefit, it can sometimes be frustrating to see the forecast change from one hour to the next.

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