July 7, 2013

Haymaking a challenge

Make hay when the sun shines.

That sounds easy, but when the forecast predicts showers and rain every day for what seems like weeks on end, it doesn’t give the farmer much leeway.

A couple of weeks back, I saw an opportunity to mow some hay. It had rained that morning, but the day had brightened and although the forecast cautioned of rain in a couple days, I hooked up the mower and spent a couple hours mowing hay.

Being the first hay of the year, it would hopefully be the best. I would bale the hay into small square bales for our four ponies and once we get enough for them, the rest would be extra for the beef cows. As luck would have it, the rain held off and the next two days were fairly decent drying weather.

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 finished, 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. Since then, the rain just hasn’t quit.

Without the weather technology that we enjoy today, it probably would not have turned out as 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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