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Discussion Starter #1
Seeded some marginal crop land back and going to hay it. Some is grass and some grass/hay.

Expect 1 to 4 bales per acre. Rainfall is variable here east of Calgary.

Bought a 16’ discbine. Just wondering how to decide what width windrow to make. Read that making the windrow as wide as possible will dry in 1/2 the time. So if I have a 10’ wide windrow for fast drying, do I just drive over part of it with the tractor when cutting the next pass or does the tractor always drive in the uncut hay and the suction of the discbine will pull up the trampled crop? Not sure how this works logistically or does this only work on 9’ discbines?

Or is the windrow just set 1’ narrower than the tractor and hopefully I don’t drive over it much while cutting.

Is a rake worth owning for a 16’ discbine in areas that normally get good drying? High humidity is not usually an issue here, but scattered rain showers could be. Should I be looking at a simple roll over rake to just flip one windrow to speed drying or a big wheel rake to make 1 windrow out of 2?
 

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When making hay its important to limit the amount of times you drive on the swath. Everytime you drive over the swath you'll have a spot that takes 2 or 3 times as long to dry as the rest of the swath. If you drive in the uncut area your discbine will have a hard time getting that back off the ground. All the guys in our area straddle the swath because when you swing your arm out the maximum amount it should perfectly line up with where you cut ended, check your manual, it'll show you the best way to drive, how to make proper corners. Your best option is to set your tractors tires as wide as possible, then set your swath to the width of your baler pickup, or if that's not possible only half the width. Most baler manuals have a page that's shows what kind of swath you should lay. If you dont have the proper width, it will make having good even bales hard.
 

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As the saying goes "there's more than one way to skin a cat".

I had a 16' pull type discbine and would make a swath just wide enough to straddle with the tractor. I found that where it was drove on wouldn't dry very well and in lighter crop could be hard to get with the rake sometimes.

Here I couldn't imagine making dry hay without a rake. But I believe we are dealing with way more humidity than yourself. I generally rake in the morning with some dew on the day it "should" bale. Been caught too many times with leaving it raked overnight and a shower comes through. Also I find that the baler leaves some behind without raking behind a moco.

How many acres you need to cover would dictate the size of rake. I'm partial to basket rakes personally as we'll use it for raking greenfeed or haylage and a wheel rake wouldn't handle that. We have a NH 258+260 tandem rake and they work good. Went to a Twinstar 30' so anyone can rake as they hydraulically fold/unfold.

What discbine did you get?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I bought a used new holland 316 discbine. Don't have it home yet, so have not read the operators manual. I cut hay 20 years ago with an 18' swather and had no control over the windrow width and it took forever to dry. The discbine world is all new to me. I assumed that you made the swath narrow enough to fit between the tractor tires, but read a whole bunch online that kind of showed the new thinking was to get a wide thin mat of hay and it dried much faster. Said that a windrow 75% of the cut width was the ideal. So 75% of a 16' cut width is 12' wide windrow. That won't fit between the tractor tires, so wasn't sure how people handled that.

Setting the windrow to match the baler makes sense to me. Do you allow for the windrow to widen out as it settles when making the initial windrow? I have a Deere 568 baler that I have only used for baling straw.

Was also thinking about doing some green feed. Similar windrow idea in green feed as hay or do you take a partial cut with the discbine to get a small windrow to dry faster. The limited experience I had with green feed and a swather, suggested that it takes forever to dry the grain kernels down. I have rubber crimper rolls, so hopefully they dry much faster than my old swather did.
 

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First of all let me just say that I hate anyone who can think about cutting hay with a 16' and not own a rake.

With that out of the way, we lay the widest swath possible with a 10' machine, have tractor tires set as wide as they go, which still results in driving on the very edge of the swath, and just barely on the hay crop. It still requires raking, usually multiple times. The only time I've seen someone bale hay that wasn't raked is a neighbor who does his first cut in September, when it is mostly ripe.

My goal is to not trample any swath, big advantage of the discbine is being able to cut the corners out and not have all the trampled wet gobs that never dry.

In other words, we are in a completely different climate and my advice would be of no use whatsoever.

Edit to add, location is west central AB about 2 hours south of Dan Vanderwell. About the heaviest hay crops anywhere, and the worst weather for putting it up.
 

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In the right area and weather wide machines can be used with no raking, but I wouldn't bank on it year after year. I run both 16 and 18 foot myself and have baled tens of thousands without flipping it, then other years not a single bale done without it.
Best is a swath the width of your baler, I have found if the tires run over the thin edges of the swaths it usually isn't a big deal, as it can be difficult to set the machine to lay the right size swath as the width changes as the volume of the stand changes from one end of the field to the other, its just the nature of physics at work within the crimper. So you set it that it is never wider than your baler and go.
As for rakes, like Dan I prefer a basket or reel type myself. I hate wheel rakes as they tend to rope the swath if you do more than a half a turn. In extreme wet conditions in very heavy swaths, sometimes a wheel rake will work better to flip the swath over than the basket ones can, as they literally lose traction under the heavy load and drive wheels skid. A wheel rake is driven by the swath itself so not so much an issue, though they can drag the swath as well when it is simply too heavy with moisture to roll over. For such condtions I have a PTO basket rake, slower than the the other two, but there is nothing that one can't roll over. You adjust your ground speed to conditions. Unless you are absolutely certain you will get it baled that very day, NEVER roll two large swaths together, not only does it become a problem to get under the tractor into the baler in the first place, if it rains you now have one horrendous mess. I will never do it myself unless it in light conditions and I won't lose half of it rolling it the extra distance to get them together. Also you need a nine foot basket on a reel rake to roll those wide cut swaths, smaller rakes won't quite get them right together.
One thing to keep in mind with raking, you lose the width of your swath and it can be a real PITA to get it rolled just right that all of the wet stuff is exposed as most often when you are done, the swath is half the width it was when you started. I have had in extreme conditions where I have had to actually rake some twice to get all of it dry and gamble on weather. Things like that are the downside to a wide cut in heavy crops, but IMO overall the other advantages make them worth having for those who need production.
If the budget is there, one of those swath flippers like a NH 144 or 166 work ok in moderate condtions, but not so good in heavy. The nice thing about them is when they do work, they don't roll the swath or make it narrower like any kind of a rake does. I demoed the very first 144 that come to Edmonton 30 years ago and that demo lasted three rounds in heavy hay behind my 14 foot Speedrower, it simply couldn't handle the heavy crop. I have heard the 166 was somewhat better in that regard but still not that great when you have heavy crops.
 

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I have a lot of the same thoughts as JVW and AB. All of us have a slightly different climate than yourself though.

I believe the 316 has the same rolls as my 419 header and they lay a 8' swath. IIRC. We're dropping a full width swath and actually ended up getting a tedder to spread the swath completely and it helps shave a day or more off the drying time. The past couple years that's still not enough and have ended up using preservative, wrapping or chopping most of it.

I replaced the rubber rolls on ours as they were worn out. I put a set of steel ones from M+R and they are definitely more aggressive and seem to do a better job than the chevron rubber rolls.

I assume your 568 is a megawide? That's a nice unit.
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Discussion Starter #8
Dan are you making an 8' windrow and driving over part of it or going just so it fits between the tractor tires and then teddy it out to full width?

I can't grow much hay volume here, but humidity is usually low enough that things dry quick. Biggest problem is getting a stretch of weather without any rain showers.

Does hay that is cut in the afternoon when it is wilted a little from the sun dry faster than morning or evening cut hay? Or is it better to cut in the morning so the first afternoon of good sun and drying occurs right away?
 

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I've read it is best to cut in the morning, the sugars are higher and it makes for better quality hay.

I still cut when I can, weather doesn't usually co-operate.
 

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When we used the 1441 (15.5' cut) we dropped a 6' windrow so the tractor could straddle it. Now we use a self propelled H8080 with a 19' header and drop a full width swath. It's about the same "thickness" between the the two.

I don't like driving on the swath as it gets packed into the ground and doesn't dry.

There's two schools of thought on when to cut hay. Some say you should cut in the morning and spread as wide of swath. The stomata are open and will continue to allow transpiration down to ~60% moisture. The plant will respire for the least amount of time and burn less sugars than cutting in the evening.

Some say you should cut in the afternoon/evening as the plant sugar content is the highest due to photosynthetis through the day. However the plant doesn't know it's been cut and will continue to respire until it is dry so it will continue burning sugars until it is dry. Some research says the plant will respire more sugars through the night than it accumulates through the day so even though it starts at a higher content you end up with less at the end.

I know I'm not explaining that the best but my theory is if the forecast looks good it's hammer down time regardless of what the clock says. I don't like cutting in the rain (but have if the weather looks promising and I'm behind) as it makes a tight swath but some dew while cutting in the night or morning has never seemed to make much difference on the drying side.
 

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As was mentioned earlier, what works in one area may not work for your area. Here I've learned that a five foot wide windrow is best for preserving the green in hay. Any wider and there's too much bleaching from dew or a light shower. I cut with a 13 foot disc mower and always rake two swaths together in the morning to bale that afternoon or rake all day and bale the next day if the weather looks good. It seems that the freshly fluffed hay really dries fast when the conditions are good.
 

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We cut with a 16’ SP macdon discbine. We are usually lucky enough to set it for a fairly wide swath since we plan to merge down to a tight windrow once it’s mostly dry. However, if it’s a light grass crop we will set to a narrower width that matches the baler width more closely and skip the merging. Drying hasn’t been a problem for a few years here....
 

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I am an hour east of Calgary and use to custom hay, We use a 13' discbine and a v rake to pull two swaths together. Some years we have been able to roll up hay in 2 days but usually 3-4 days and some years we should have just silaged the crop because it would never dry out before the next rain. With a 16' machine I would recommend having a tedder to spread the windrows out if you get rain on them.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The hay market is sure interesting. Big crop its worth nothing because everyone has a big crop. Gets rained on a few times and it has no value. Haying is one thing that could greatly benefit from better weather forecasting.

My Father in law said you have to steal the hay crop. Lots of wisdom in those words.
 

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The hay market is sure interesting. Big crop its worth nothing because everyone has a big crop. Gets rained on a few times and it has no value. Haying is one thing that could greatly benefit from better weather forecasting.

My Father in law said you have to steal the hay crop. Lots of wisdom in those words.
That is my experience. We can grow a crop heavy enough to be profitable on paper, except you can't dry and bale a heavy crop without ruining it first most years. Get a crop light enough to be able to get it to dry and bale it in good timing and good condition, and sell for top dollar, and the net dollars per acre just don't pencil out. And the hay market is much too local, no way to capitalize on a shortage half a province away, and no affordable way to store it through to years where there is a shortage.
 
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