Haying with Friends and Horses in New Hampshire

by Phil and Janet Warren
February  – March 2021
The Allen family from Balance Point Farm and Hasselman family from Iron Kettle Farm are the first people we call when the weather looks great and we are ready to start mowing. Together, we plan our strategy and hope for sunny days and flexible work schedules. This combination of hard-working folks makes a pretty formidable haying crew – and we are grateful for their friendship and their willingness to help.
sunflower patch
Phil drives Mike, Red and Max tedding second-cut hay with a Pioneer powercart and 17-foot tedder.

When we purchased our 90-acre New Hampshire farm in 1988, a local farmer custom cut our fields. As you may expect, he put up his hay first, and, by the time he arrived at our farm, the hay was well past prime and of poor quality.

Today, we use a combination of four Belgians, a tractor and a team of friends and neighbors to put up 3,000 small square bales from two cuttings on 26 acres of fields. And our hay is now of good quality (Blue Ribbon at the Cornish Fair).

In 2012 we attended an Amish friend’s wedding in Millersburg, Ohio, and ended up driving and buying a well-trained team of 6-year-olds, Mike and Max that day. It was an expensive wedding! We bought Jake and Rudy, ages 6 and 5, in March of 2020 at the Mid-Ohio Draft Horse Sale.

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Jake and Rudy on the rake with Jess driving (hidden) and Rob riding. Gail, Tom and Phil baling in the background.

I generally mow four acres at a time with an I  & J ground drive mower (7-foot cutter bar) which takes 2 to 2½ hours. We follow up tedding the hay with an I & J ground driven forecart, horses and a 10-foot (2 rotor) Kuhn tedder. If there is a lot of hay down, we use three horses on the new Pioneer 23hp power forecart and a 17-foot (4 rotors) Kuhn tedder.

When the hay is dry, we rake with a Pioneer forecart and New Holland ground driven rakes (either a 256 or 258). Having two rakes allows us   to work together with Tom Hassleman and his Percherons.

Janet bales with a John Deere tractor and a 45-year-old New Holland 315  baler.  Jess  and  Gail from Balance Point Farm are experienced horsewomen. They join in to finish raking and wash down our horses while we start baling.

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Chuck, Gail, Sarah,Tom, Jess, Phil and Janet. Notice there's not a scrap of food left after our hardworking crew feasted.

At this point, other neighbors arrive – Chuck, Marty, Cara, Sarah and Rob – to help stack and pick up the hay. We use horses and trucks to load the wagons and flatbeds. We are not purists about using horses only – efficiency is more  important.  With the help of ten-plus people, we can get 350 bales into the barn in short order. There is always a lot of lively banter, and sometimes a bale gets tossed back at one of the pranksters! Tom (aka the human bale launcher) might have to duck at one coming back down off the wagon after he clips someone up on top of the stack.

What equipment do we use to make 3,000 bales annually with a value of about $15,000?

Forecart

Pioneer 23hp power forecart (new in 2019): $5,600 or I& J ground drive standard forecart, new for $1900

Mowers (bought new)

I&J open gear mower (we have mowed 284 acres with this machine) $5,300 or
I&J enclosed gear mower $7,700 (new in 2020)

Tedders (bought new)

Kuhn 10-foot tedder $3,000 and Kuhn 17-foot tedder $8,000

Rake

New Holland 258 rake (used) $1,800

Baler

New Holland 315 baler (used) $6,000
Twine, diesel fuel, lime and some commercial fertilizer puts our per-bale direct costs at about $1.50 each.

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Tom Hassleman with Percherons Bob and Barney and Phil Warren with Mike and Max raking hay, making short work of those eight acres.
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Phil and Jess on a loaded wagon being pulled by Mike and Max.
In small plots, corn can be planted by hand. A push seeder will work or even an old stab type planter. I am a bit spoiled with my retrofitted plateless planter, but it has been the answer to a prayer.

Each year we love sharing our horses with hundreds of families who are astounded at how gentle and well- mannered they are. We volunteer at public events and generate farm income with carriage rides at weddings and wagon rides in parades and community events. In the winter, we do some logging, give families rides to cut their own Christmas trees and give sleigh rides in our vintage 1880 sleigh through the fields and forests on our farm. Phil teaches others who want to learn more about draft horse farming at workshops and school events.

Author

Phil and Janet Warren farm in Alstead, New Hampshire.
This article appeared in the February/March 21 issue of Rural Heritage magazine.

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