Haymaking


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Haymaking

 

the group of related processes involved in making hay from cultivated and natural grasses. Haymaking consists of mowing and drying the grasses and storing the hay. Haymaking procedures differ depending on natural zones, weather conditions, types of hayfields, and yield. In the non-chernozem zone of the USSR the primary concern in haymaking is the rapid drying of the grasses in order to protect against the unfavorable effects of dew and rain. In the steppe and semi-desert zones overdrying and breakage of leaves and heads are avoided by collecting the grasses into windrows at mowing time for uniform drying.

Grasses are mowed when the plants contain the greatest amount of nutrients; their height and phase of development are taken into account. The maximum amount of protein per hectare (ha) is obtained by mowing cereals in the heading phase and legumes in the budding and early flowering stages. Characteristics of the hayfield (botanical composition, weed infestation) are taken into consideration as well when determining haymaking times.

The height of grass mowing greatly influences the quantity and quality of the hay and the subsequent yield of the hayfield. Mowing too high results in an incomplete harvest, and mowing too low decreases hay quality, especially when cutting coarse-stemmed grasses. The approximate mowing height should be 5–6 cm above the soil surface for perennial grasses in the non-chernozem zone, 4–6 cm in the steppe zone, 3–4 cm for sheep fescue-sagebrush meadows, 4–5 cm for mountain-meadow and mountain-steppe grasses in low, dense stands, 7–9 cm for white melilot, and 10—15 cm for long- and thick-stemmed plants.

There are various types of mowers. Selection of a mower depends on the type of hayfield, the yield, and the characteristics of the zone. The grass stems are compressed by a crusher during mowing to speed up drying.

Drying the grasses is the most labor-intensive process in haymaking. Depending on botanical composition, the mowed grass contains 55–85 percent moisture. The moisture level of hay for storage, however, cannot exceed 16–17 percent. The grass is usually dried to a 55–65 percent moisture content on the ground where it is cut and then to a 25–40 percent moisture content in windrows. Drying is completed in haystacks. During drying the hay is usually turned several times, causing losses of the fine, most valuable plant parts—the leaves and flowers. The crushed hay is dried in swaths and turned; it is then raked into windrows and pressed into bales, which are lifted and transported for storage. This well-organized process significantly reduces labor expenditures and mechanical losses and preserves the carotene in the hay better.

Ventilation of the mowed grass after it is dried in the swaths and windrows reduces the time needed in haymaking. Ventilation is provided both indoors and in open-air stacks to complete the drying process. A sectional air distributor—a conduit made of boards, poles, and metal rods—feeds air to the hay; air is blown into the conduit by fans. Heaters are also used to warm the atmospheric air to 60°C. With ventilation the yield of hay per ha increases roughly 30 percent, and the hay contains 7–10 percent more protein and 29–30 percent more carotene. Moisture can also be removed rapidly from green plants by using special high-temperature drying units that almost completely prevent the loss of nutrients. The dried hay is stored in special structures or in stacks.

Outside the USSR, for example, in the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, haymaking involves a number of different procedures, such as chopping hay, forming briquettes and granules, and baling. In the Federal Republic of Germany the hay is dried in windrows to a 40–45 percent moisture content, picked up and chopped, and taken to a ventilated indoor area for final drying. Compared to the conventional haymaking method, this procedure yields 15–20 percent more hay per unit of area and preserves 30–50 percent more nutrients in the hay.

REFERENCES

Senokosy i pastbishcha. Edited by I. V. Larin. Leningrad, 1969.
Pastbishcha i senokosy SSSR. Edited by N. G. Andreev. Moscow, 1974.

A. P. MOVSISIANTS

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