Like other crops, hay coming in strong
It was a few years back that Jimmy Elder got his money's worth out of his hay bale loader.
To the casual observer, the 50-plus-year-old circular bale loader looks as if it's ready to be exhibited at an antique farm machinery show.
But Elder, who bought it new from Elmer Johanning in Lawrence about half a century ago, still finds it useful when he cuts one of his smaller fields and puts up the hay in square bales.
Sunday evening, Elder drove his farm truck through the field as the bale loader trailed beside it, and in Ferris wheel fashion, scooped up bales of hay and lifted them so that his ride-along crew could hook into the bales and stack them on the truck. By 6:30 p.m., the truck was nearly full, and Elder could mark another field off his to-do list.
The bale loader, antique though it may be, helps the hay crew because, rather than standing on the ground and tossing the 65-pound bales up to the truck, they merely have to latch onto them from above.
"That thing works real good," Elder said of his bale loader. "It looks terrible, but it does the job."
Although he usually uses a large round baler, the square baling equipment was just right to handle the smaller field he and his son LeRoy Elder and grandsons, Kevin Elder and Mike Best, worked Sunday afternoon.
Elder, who lives southwest of Linwood in southern Leavenworth County, as well as other area farmers, are reporting this to be a standout year for the hay crop.
Don Huebner, who farms just outside of Tonganoxie, as well as northwest of Jarbalo, has cut about half of his hay.
The yields have been excellent, Huebner said.
"Everything's fine," Huebner said. "The hay crop was as good as it's been. We had moisture early, it went to seed fast, it had good growth on it and it was thick."
As of Monday, Huebner had not cut his Jarbalo hay.
"It looks good, so I'm expecting a good yield off that also," Huebner said.
But, true to the annals of farming, the final chapter won't be known until he finishes the Jarbalo field.
"We won't know until we get done," Huebner said. "It will fool you sometimes."
Rain would help
Bill Murr, who farms eight miles northwest of Tonganoxie, said his stepson, Travis Starcher, monitors the hay crew.
"It's doing real good," Murr said. "It's probably making nearly a bale an acre more than it did last year."
Murr's talking big bales -- 1,400 pounds each.
He estimates the 650 acres of hay he's cutting this year will yield about 2,500 bales.
But because much of the nation is in better shape, hay-wise, this year than last, the price of hay has dropped.
"Presently there's an awful lot of hay and not a lot of demand," Murr said. "Two cents a pound is an average price on hay right now. It should be 2 1/2 cents. Maybe it will get back to that if it stays dry and the pastures go away."
Last year, hay hauling kept dealers moving. Murr said he delivered hay to western Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, southern Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. He's got a load heading out to Colorado next week and another to Wyoming after that.
Murr is winding up his hay cutting for the year.
"We've got about 60 acres to go," he said.
And, he's monitoring his other crops, crops that are beginning to look a little thirsty.
So Murr is hoping for a rain this week.
"We're badly in need of a good drink for the corn and beans," he said.