Hay Cut Finally Ready

The wet spring has farmers behind schedule. Tony blogs of the right time to make that first hay cut.

Hay Farmers, Your Time is Here!

You have no doubt heard the saying, “make hay in the sun”. Well this Memorial Day weekend that saying needs a caveat. Let me explain.

First off, for the kids heading to the pool or the Ironton Memorial Day parade, the late May sun is a dynamo. You can get burnt to a crisp with an hour of “unprotected” exposure to the midday sun. So use the slogan “make hay in the sun” to remind you to load up with sun block before heading out.

The parade kicks off at 10am as does the Cunningham Memorial celebration in St. Albans. Both events will last long enough (Ironton into the early afternoon) to allow for a sunburn on anyone who does not lather up and spends time in the sun.

Now back to the saga of our hay farmers! These denizens of Deere (as in John Deere tractors) are loving the sun splashed forecast as we conclude the holiday weekend. Here’s why!

Traditionally, hay farmers look for the “prospect” of 3 straight dry days in order to cut their hay. The sun days allow for the hay to dry properly after being cut and give farmers a chance to get the hay into the barn before the next downpour occurs.

Trouble is, this year the ground is so wet that any attempt to get into a hay field would have resulted in a muddy romp which would have done more harm than good to the crop.

Instead, hay farmers have waited patiently as the hay topped out (seedlings are the sign the hay has reached its peak maturity) and prayed for a dry spell before the hay rotted in the fields. In this case, most hay crops are 2 weeks past peak maturity, losing nutrients every day they stay uncut.

Now finally, the hot sun of Saturday and Sunday has allowed most fields to dry sufficiently for field work to resume on Monday.

Of course hay farmers know they still need another 3 days of dry weather to allow for the hay to cure while laying on the field. Given this spring’s notoriously wet personality, another 3 days may seem a pipedream.

Turns out the hot air of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will sponsor our first 90 degree days of the season (OK, some areas made 90 on Sunday).

Of course, as the air heats up, the humidity will be rising so by mid-week, the risk of an afternoon thunderstorm will return. But waiting for a scattered thunderstorm to maybe pop up can be a chancy proposition and most the time between now (Sunday 4pm) and Thursday will be dry.

Even if a downpour occurs over your freshly cut hay field, hot and drying sun will quickly return and help to dry the crop again. Not ideal, I realize but given that this first cut of hay is over-ripe in the fields already, the odds say cut the hay this week and reap what yield you can from this first cut.

After a brief late week drop in heat, another stab of hot and humid air will poke its nose our way. That raises the specter of a thunderstorm next weekend, another reason to cut the hay this week.

Other hay cuts will come in July, August and September, when the weather should be much more favorable than this unpredictable first cut.
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