Here's my husband showing my soon-to-be sister-in-law (hurray!) how to check hay. After the hay is cut and laid into piles called windrows, it has to dry. When the moisture is just right, about 8% to 16%, then it's time to bale the hay. My husband knows a couple tricks of how to test for that moisture content without using a moisture probe.
Here's a view from above of the windrows. I just love looking at fields from above, especially at harvest time. The symmetry of the rows just looks so nice to me. Maybe because they are so orderly, and I certainly don't have much order in the rest of my life!
The balers go round and round the pivot fields, depositing the nice rectangular bales of hay. We use a couple different-sized balers. Small balers make bales weighing 100-120 pounds, and these are mostly sold to horse owners. Large balers make bales weighing about 10 times that amount, and these bales go to our cattle and other cattle owners.
Timing the harvest is really important. You want to cut the alfalfa while it still has a high protein content. At the same time, we're dealing with monsoon weather, so those afternoon rainstorms can get the hay wet and decrease the protein and make it too wet to bale. Hay with higher protein content can be sold at a higher price to dairies. My husband wants me to add that we are helping to produce the milk you drink!
Here's another one of those orderly overhead field shots. The windrower and balers can't go entirely around the pivot because the pivot itself blocks the way, so part of the field gets cut in a different direction.