Do you like nerding out about tractors and hay machinery? Me too. Here’s a rundown of what we use to make our hay:
Massey Ferguson 135
What can I say – this little droid and I have been through a lot together. Bought in 2011, before our first haying season – this 35 horsepower 3 cylinder Perkins gas-job ran the whole show for our first four seasons. I’m beyond impressed (proof here!) These days he plays back-up and pulls fertilizer spreading duty, able to hang back at the last set of fields as the rest of the flying circus moves on across town.
Massey Ferguson 165
We got our first diesel for the 2016 season. Despite now being a little over 50 years old, this tractor really brought our production to the next level – giving a new sense of horsepower, along with the ability to run two tractors as once. This addition solidified our ability to pull a wagon behind the baler on most fields (first with a chute in 2016, and then the thrower in 2017). These days the 165 tag-teams with our 275 and can run everything comfortably. (We have settled into a groove of most commonly running the mower and the rake with it.)
Massey Ferguson 275
As the operation continued to grow, we began to recognize the need for redundancy, and perhaps a little more horsepower for the terrain we hay. In September of 2019, we brought this guy home from northern VT (where he had arrived from across the border in Quebec). Fresh with a new roll bar and canopy we installed in 2020, the 275 now shares the load with the 165, splitting tasks comfortably (though we have settled into a groove of most commonly running the baler and tedder with it.)
New Holland HM234 Disc Mower
The smallest disc mower that New Holland made in 2012, this little 5.5 foot, four-disc mower continues to lay down all of our hay for us since day one. Notably, unlike most modern hay mowers, this machine does not have a conditioner, meaning that grass stems are not crimped. Even though in theory this means that dry-down takes longer, in our experience the hay quality is better for it – an un-crimped stem means that the leaves are the last part to dry, and don’t shatter as easily before being baled. (If you want to extra nerd out on this conditioner pro/con talk, check out the first minute or so of this video from Rural Heritage – from 0:54 to 1:38)
Vicon RS410T Tedder
An upgrade from our older two-head Grimm tedder in 2017, this machine has more than doubled our tedding speed. Essential to the dry-down process in our New England climate, a tedder works to expose new surface area of mowed hay to sun and wind. Frequently, two or three teddings are required for a batch of hay to reach peak dry-down, before raking into windrows and baling.
New Holland 256 Hay Rake
Another upgrade in 2017 – this model of rake is seen just about *everywhere* – and for good reason. Its construction is both reliable and forgiving, allowing us to efficiently rake dry hay into windrows prior to baling, even on our hilly and often irregularly-shaped fields.
Massey Ferguson 124 Baler
We were lucky enough to wind up with the same model baler that I grew up using with my mentor – so I already knew one just like it nearly inside and out. Even though it’s a 1970’s vintage, this machine continues to be reliable and makes a great bale. We dropped bales on the ground for the first four years (though occasionally using a home-made chute to allow us to trail a wagon and have someone stack.) In 2017, I realized my dreams and got a thrower for it (see below!)
New Holland 70 Bale Thrower
This device *completely* revolutionized our farm for the 2017 season onward, allowing us to more than double our acreage by 2020. Using a pair of fast spinning belts, the bale thrower launches bales straight from the baler into a trailing wagon. No need to have a crew out in the field, just helpers at the barn to unload. (And yes – you read that right: I put a New Holland hydraulic-drive belt thrower on a Massey Baler. I won’t lie – this might just be one of my proudest achievements. See a full walk-around video here.) I still grin every time it shoots a bale.