Hay by the Numbers



July has been hay month here at Rock Hills Ranch. With the tours, rain, and pheasant hatch behind us, we are free to put up hay at a pretty good rate. I've always kind of been a numbers guy, and lately I have been noticing all the numbers surrounding hay production. I happened to have the camera with me on the baler yesterday, so I took some pictures of a few of the numbers I came across. My little numbers list here is in no way exhaustive, but I hope that it is enough to give you a taste of life on the baler.


4.7 mph 591 rpm 6:34 CDT

4.7 is my speed. I usually bale at about 6 mph over good smooth ground, but I will go slower if the ground is rough, I am starting a bale, or I am trying to take a picture of the control panel. 591 is the revolutions per minute of the power take-off shaft, and is a measure of how fast the baler is picking hay up off the ground and spinning the new bale. I try to keep it about 600 in most cases. 6:34 is, of course, my time of day.

11.8 percent moisture

The black probe pictured here is a hay moisture tester. I insert the two foot long probe into the round side of the bale and push the moisture button to get a reading. Ideally, we will bale hay when it is between 10 and 20 percent moisture. Wetter than that and we run the risk of hay spoiling or catching fire in the stack, dryer than that and we lose a lot of the high quality leaves in the baling process. If hay gets too dry we will quit baling until evening comes, at which point the rising humidity will make the hay wet enough to bale again.


1020 bales

This is my bale counter on the baler. 1020 is the number of bales that we have made for the year. We will probably do somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 or 1600 bales this year, so we are well over half way done now.

90.7 degrees Fahrenheit

This is the infrared heat gun that we use to check bearings on the baler. At the end of the day I will usually check all the bearings to see if any of them are abnormally hot. In addition to causing mechanical problems within the baler, a hot bearing can start a fire in a hurry with so much dry hay flying around. At home in Missouri I have had to use the fire extinguisher on baler bearing fires more than once. Detecting them early with this heat gun is a better way to go.

A few other numbers from hay season:

32 or 38– number of bales that go in a stack

1500— approximate weight, in pounds, of a bale of hay

7090— New Holland baler model that we use

40— approximate number of bales that one bundle of twine will string

1420— dial position of ESPN radio, my tractor entertainment source

18— width, in feet, of one swath cut by the hay mower

There are plenty of other numbers that surround hay season, but I think you get the idea. Doing hay is something that I enjoy, and this summer I have done quite a bit of it. I have seen and done a lot of interesting things here at Rock Hills Ranch over the past two months. I hope to communicate a few more of them to you over the rest of my time here, now down to less than a month.