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.
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.
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?
Pioneer 23hp power forecart (new in 2019): $5,600 or I& J ground drive standard forecart, new for $1900
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)
Kuhn 10-foot tedder $3,000 and Kuhn 17-foot tedder $8,000
New Holland 258 rake (used) $1,800
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.
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.