I am sure glad I am not actively working a hayfield this year.
The weather has been extremely difficult for putting in a good, dry crop. First, we had the late April snows....followed by a slow, cool spring. Soil temps stayed cold, and are still below normal even now, mid July. Then, we have had week after week of cloudy weather, interspersed with a few days of sunshine. Despite the overcast, there has not been a lot of rain, so much of the crop for first cutting was thin and short.
The high humidity and seemingly endless cycles of intermittent light rains has made it darn near impossible to get a crop up-we have only had one stretch of dry weather lasting five days-all summer. And yes, it takes about five days to harvest.
One day to mow
One day to leave lay, or ted
One day to ted
One day to windrow/rake
One day to bale
Any really heavy dew or light rain, or even a sprinkle, can set back this schedule by as much as two days. And that is per field, mind you. Large farms with 100s of acres in hay, this stretches out over ten to 12 days unless you have unlimited equipment and skilled operators at the wheel of the tractors. Not very likely here, where there are usually only a handful of people willing to work that many hours in a day.
Again, circumstances have conspired to create a situation where there will not be very much horse quality hay available coming into winter-certainly not even close to satisfying the demand. It's rather become a recurring theme for horse owners here, and until the weather pattern changes (El Nina? Jet stream? CMEs? Global warming? Take your pick!) we will be stuck with it.
So if you can find good hay, stock up. I have a hunch there is not going to be much clean dry hay come December :(