Buying the Right Equipment

Choosing the Right Mower
Choosing Hay Equipment - Balers,Mowers,Tedders, & Rakes
The Mowers
Drum Mowers

Drum mowers, though widely used in Europe for 40 years or more, are just recently becoming a popular choice in the US. Drum mowers have a significantly different design from the other two types of mowers. Instead of powering the cutting blades from the cutter bar, the “drums” of a drum mower are powered from a gearbox above. It typically has two or three large counter-rotating drums that have blades attached to the bottom.

As a drum mower moves through the field, the drums are rotating toward each other, which causes the cut crop to pass between the drums and be dropped in a windrow behind the mower. This windrowing effect eventually must be spread back out with a tedder or rake in order for the hay to dry properly.

Drum mowers are designed to be very robust, simple machines. They have only a fraction of the parts that either sickle bars or disc mowers require. They also can be run with modest horsepower. Once the drums are up to speed, they do not draw a lot of power from the tractor to keep spinning.

Drum mower advantages are:

  • No hydraulic requirement - You do not have to have hydraulics on your tractor. For transport, the drums swing to the rear of the tractor manually.
  • Durability - Drum mowers are easily the most rugged of the hay mower types. They rarely sustain damage even from striking an unmovable object. This makes them a great choice for contract cutting in unfamiliar fields or for mowing unruly pastures.
  • High ground speeds - Drum mowers can cut grass twice the speed of sickle bar mowers and faster than disc mowers.
  • Low power consumption - Drum mowers use less power than other types of mowers resulting in less fuel consumption per acre mowed.

Drum mower disadvantages are:

  • Contour mowing - Because the drums are very heavy, it is not recommended to hang the mower out over a downward slope. Drum mowers also do not pivot enough to effectively follow extreme contours like a sickle bar will.
  • Weight - The drum mower’s heavy weight can be detrimental for tractors with light front ends. Drum mowers are very heavy in relation to other mower types of the same width. This can make maneuverability and transport difficult if there is not sufficient weight holding the front wheels of the tractor down.
  • Windrowing - Since most drum mowers windrow the cut crop, it will not dry in the field without being spread out or double-raked.
Sickle Bar Mowers

The sickle bar mower was the first mechanical mower and was originally pulled by horses. The design is much the same today as it was then. It is a light weight machine that cuts plant materials at its base using a scissor or reciprocating action, moving triangular blades back and forth between stationary guard fingers. Each back and forth action shears off any grass or vegetation that is between the stationary fingers.

The design of the sickle bar mower makes it the ideal choice for many tasks, inlcuding mowing tall grass, brush, small saplings, hay and other stalk crops. Due to its angled mowing capability, the sickle bar mowers are ideal when trimming in low-clearance areas like along slopes, ponds, under fences and ditch banks. It is capable of mowing 90° down to -60°

The best sickle bar mowers currently being produced use a double action where the guard moves in the opposite direction from the blades. This doubles the effective blade speed, and also greatly reduces machine vibration, making it quieter, more comfortable to use, and longer lasting. An example of this type of mower is our Farm-Maxx FSBM 7H Sickle Bar Mower.

Sickle Bar Mower advantages are:

  • Requires little horsepower - Sickle bar mowers only need 13 horsepower to operate making it the best option for those who have smaller tractors.
  • Lighter weight - If your tractor is very lightweight, or has very little front weight, a sickle bar is the lightest weight hay mower and therefore your best (and safest) option.
  • Angled mowing capability - If you are mowing ditch banks, sickle bars are the only hay mower style specifically designed to work well below (or above) horizontal. Some mowers even allow you to work in the vertical position for trimming hedges or trail edges. Our FSBM Mowers mow 90° down to -60°
  • No chance of thrown objects - Blade speeds of sickle bar mowers are nowhere near as fast as rotary mowers, so there is no risk of thrown rocks or other objects.
  • Clean Cut - Sickle bar mowers often leave a cleaner cut field, especially in light crops.

Sickle Bar Mower disadvantages are:

  • Forward speed - A sickle bar mower’s forward speed is much slower than disc and drum mowers. They can mow a wide swath, but maximum speeds are only about half of other designs.
  • Clogging - They become easily clogged when working in very dense, lodged, or already cut material. Clogging is also more of a problem when blades begin to get dull.
  • Blade repair - When blades become dull, sharpening or replacing them can be time consuming and expensive. Repair expense. Damage due to hitting an unknown obstruction can be expensive to fix.
Disc Mowers

A disc mower is a type of mower that has blades mounted on small discs that rotate quickly on top of a cutter bar. Disc mowers are often used for mowing hay with tractors and can almost be used in any conditions. Generally, there are 2 free-swinging blades bolted to each disc. The discs are driven either by a shaft or gears that are inside the cutter bar. Like with a sickle bar, the cutter bar essentially slides along the ground, which is what controls the cutting height.

Disc Mower Advantages are:

  • No clogging - Disc mowers handle thick and lodged hay with ease.
  • High cutting speeds - If you have the horsepower, there is almost no limit to how fast you can drive through the field. Speeds of up to 15 mph are feasible with some tractors.
  • Ease of transition - Hydraulic lift allows you to go from working to transport and back again without leaving the tractor seat. This is a time-saving feature when mowing several small fields.
  • Ease of use - Disc mower blades are easy to sharpen and can be used on either side of the mower. The blades also fold back when they hit objects, which can help prevent damage.
  • Quiet - Disc mowers are quieter than other mowers and don't shake.

Disc Mower Disadvantages are:

  • Need for hydraulics - If your tractor does not have hydraulics, you won’t be able to lift the cutter bar vertically to get through gates and other narrow areas.
  • Weight - Disc mowers are heavier than other mowers. You have the horsepower and the hydraulics, but your tractor is lightweight. This can be dangerous when the mower is in the vertical transport position it can tip the whole tractor over unexpectedly.
  • High Repair Cost - If you frequently mow in places where you might hit something solid like a boulder, old fence post, etc. Disc mowers, when damaged, can be extremely expensive to repair.
The Tedder and Hay Rake
Hay Tedders

A tedder is a machine that is used to spread and fluff over loose hay in the field after its been cut but before it's baled. The tedders tines aerate the hay, which helps it to dry faster and more evenly. The process of tedding can improve feed quality, prevent mildew and fermentation, and help preserve nutrients.

Heavy hay in humid climates can dry faster by tedding. It is also an indispensable machine for spreading hay out to dry after a rain. Although some farmers get by without a tedder, it is smart to have a machine that can do this important job if and when you need it.

Tedders come in all sizes, from 6 feet wide to over 20 feet wide for large tractors. They don’t use much horsepower, so most any tractor with a PTO can run them. They come in both pull type and 3-point connection. The advantage of the 3-point connection is that they can be lifted over obstacles like windrows, and they can be more easily transported. The disadvantage of the 3-point connection is that some tractors may have trouble lifting them. The advantages of the pull type tedder is manuverabilty when tedding.

Some hay tedders have features like: Tine height adjustments, Flotation tires for smooth operation over irregular ground, Standard transport safety chain and safety guards.

Tedding is especially recommended for grass hay, which can mat and dry slowly. However, some hay producers avoid tedding alfalfa or other legume crops because of the risk of leaf loss, and tedding may not be as beneficial for leafy crops

Hay Tedder Advantages are:

  • Faster drying - Tedding can help hay dry faster and more uniformly, especially in wet or humid areas. By fluffing the crop and exposing the bottom of the windrow to sunlight, tedders promote airflow and can speed up the haymaking process by 20-30%.
  • Improved feed quality - Tedders can help reduce nutritional losses in hay and other forage crops by shortening the time between cutting and baling.
  • Even distribution - Tedders can help ensure that hay is spread evenly across the field
What is a Hay Rake

In order to bale hay, it must be raked into windrows. A hay rake is used to collect cut hay or straw into windrows, which are lines of hay that are easier to pick up by a baler. Hay rakes also fluff up and turn hay over so it can dry, and can be used in the evening to protect hay from morning dew. It is a common misconception that hay can be baled directly from the windrow or swath created by the hay mower.

There are a few reasons why this will not generally work.

  • In most climates, hay will not dry well unless fluffed, flipped, or turned by a tedder and/or rake.
  • The path left by the hay mower will generally not be conducive to pick up by a baler, resulting in a lot of missed hay.
  • You can normally rake at least two mower swaths into one windrow for baling, resulting in fewer passes across the field with the baler and better quality, more consistently dense bales.
Wheel Rakes

Wheel rakes are used to rake hay and is a common, popular choice for small farms. They are built to handle high capacities, and feature quick, simple adjustments and heavy-duty constructioion to ensure durability, season after season. The wheel rakes are generally more affordable and simpler than other types of rakes. They are ground-driven by free-wheeling contact as rake is pulled forward and tend to have 5 or more spring/tine tooth wheels mounted on a frame.

Wheels rakes are oftern promoted as being gentler on hay than other rakes, but the direct contact with the ground can also bring dirt and stones into the hay, which can decrease its quality.

Wheel Rake Advantages are:

  • Ground drive simplifies operation and reduces cost
  • Simple - Wheel Rakes are easy to operate and are most common rake used in North America forage operation.
  • Cost - They are economical because of their simple ground drive.
  • Adjustable rake wheel down pressure can improve accuracy on uneven terrain.
  • Compression springs can absorb rake wheel shock.

Wheel Rake Disadvantages are:

  • Dirt and Stones - Because wheel rakes operate so close to the ground, they can introduce dirt and stones into the hay, which can lower its quality.
  • Windrows - Windrows created by wheel rakes are not as light and fluffy as those made by rotary or belt rakes.
  • Wetter Forage - Wheel rakes are not ideal for wetter, heavier forage crops.
Rotary Rakes

A rotary rake is a piece of hay equipment with multiple arms attached to a cam that rotates and turns to pick up and gently fluff hay. The rotating motion of the arms seperates, aerates and collects the hay, which prevents moisture from building up and encourages unifrom drying.

Rotary rakes design and operation ensure less dirt contamination because the teeth don't touch the ground, making them a popular choice when buying a hay rake.

Rotary Rake Advantages are:

  • Faster Drying - The fluffy windrows created by rotary rakes allow for better airflow, which helps hay dry faster.
  • Faster Baling - Rotary rakes can allow for faster baling.
  • Fuel Savings - Rotary rakes can help you get through the field faster when baling, which can lead to fuel savings.
  • Better Forage Quality - Rotary rakes can maintain the nutritional value of crops while preventing dirt contamination, resulting in overall better crop quality.
  • Farming Efficiency - Rotary rakes work faster to collect hay and can cover larger areas in shorter times. Making hay collection more efficient, this improves the bailing process by raking large areas and creating uniform windrows.
  • Versatility - Rotary rakes can be adjusted for various landscape conditions and hay types. Evenly distributing crop forage residue makes seedbed environments ideal for germination and crop growth.

Rotary Rake Disadvantages are:

  • Cost - Rotary rakes are the most expensive type of rake because they are heavy and require a heavy frame, and their cam-actuated gearbox is expensive.
  • Repair Cost - Repairs can be expensive due to specialized parts and tools, and a certified technician.
  • Maintenance = Rotary rakes have a center cam mechanism that can creat stress points that lead to maitenance issues.
  • Field Speeds - Rotary rakes can't reach the same high field speeds as other rakes.
Belt Rakes

A belt rake is a tractor-powered rake with tines that move perpendicular to the tractor's direction of travel. As the name insues, the tines are attached to two large belts that are powered by the tractors pto. They are compact, lightweight, and can be used in places other rakes typically can't.

Belt rakes are also versatile and be used for a variety of tasks, including raking leaves and pine straw, maintaining orchards and vineyards, and hay production.

Belt Rake Advantages are:

  • Compact - Belt rakes are smaller than other tractor-driven rakes, making them easier to use, store, and transport.
  • Easy to Use - Belt rakes attach directly behind the tractor and can operate in both forward and reverse directions.
  • Versatile - Belt rakes can handle both wet and dry hay. They also can create windrows that are less likely to be dirty.
  • Durable - Belt rakes are stable and have robust tines and belts drives that make them low maintenance.
  • Low Profile - Belt rakes have a low profile designs that allows them to more confined spaces. They are also safer to use on steep slopes.

Belt Rake Disadvantages are:

  • Cost - Belt rakes can be more expensive
  • Wet Hay - Belt rakes may have trouble moving we, heavy swaths or windrows.
The Balers
Mini Round Hay Balers
What is Mini Baler?

A mini baler is exactly as the name implies, a mini hay baler. The mini balers are starting to take over the baler market and for good reason. The cost alone is enough to make anyone jump on board, not to mention the simplicity of operating one. A big perk to the mini baler is the size of bale it produces as opposed to its counter-part. The size of a mini round bale is roughly the same as the small square bales most people are used to seeing. They can weigh 30-65 pounds and can be easily lifted by one person.

The mini round baler can be connected to the tractor either by the 3-point hitch or by a drawbar. They are easy to maneuver and can often be connected to small, low-power tractors. They can also be used in places with limited access, such as narrow passageways, rows of pine trees, and steep slopes. Another feature to look for with a mini round baler is whether it has gathering wheels on the sides of the pickup. Because of their diminutive size, their actual pickup width is only about 30 inches or so. This requires you to make a fairly small windrow.

Some balers require connection to the tractor’s electrical system. Some use the tractor’s hydraulics for lifting the tailgate to dump the bale. Most tractors these days have hydraulics available, so this may not be not a big deal, but it is an additional connection to make. Our Farm-Maxx FMRB Baler is one of the only brands on the market that has both self-contained hydraulics and an electrical system.

Our simple "Plug and Play" mini round balers make them some of the best choices for those who looking to do their own hay.

Mini Round Hay Baler Advantages are:

  • Low Horsepower Requirement - Mini round balers only need around 15 horsepower to operate.
  • Lightweight - Round balers weight much less than square balers. They also produce light bales that are easier to lift, stack, store and transport.
  • Size - Mini balers can fit in small spaces like garages, sheds and barns. Their size also allows them to maneuver around trees in wooded areas.
  • Storage - Mini balers are easier to store than larger balers.
  • Transportation - Mini balers are easier to transport around the farm. They can fit in the back of a pickup truck.
  • Ease of Use - Mini balers are easy to operate and can be moved by hand.
  • Weather Resistance - Mini round bales are more resistant to bad weather than square bales.

Mini Balers Disadvantages are:

  • Output Capacity - Mini round balers have a smaller pickup and need to stop to tie bales, so their production rate is usually only about a third of what a square baler can achieve.
Square Balers
What is a Square Baler?

The square baler is one of the first machines used to bale hay. Introduced in the 1930s, the square baler started to boom in America by the 1940s. It is a piece of farm machinery used to compact, compress, and cut hay and other materials into square=shaped bales, making it easy to handle, transport and store.

The most obvious difference between square and round bales in the shape, which is determined by the baying action and by the baler. These differences also affect he baling process capacity, which is more efficient when using square balers. Square bales are some of the more popular choice among industries who need more capacity and density from their bales. This reason is why square bales have become a popular choice with waste and recycling industries.

Most standard square balers require at least 35 horsepower at your tractor's pto. That means most of todays subcompact and compact tractors cannot run them. There are some compact square balers that can be operated with tractors that have 20 horsepower at the PTO and weight at least 2,300 pounds.

Square Hay Baler Advantages are:

  • High Baling Capacity - Square balers can bale at a higher capacity because they don't need to stop to tie or wrap bales.
  • Bale Length - Square bales can be made in lengths of 15 to 52 inches, allowing for bales of desired weight.
  • Stacking - Square bales are east to stack and are more stable than round bales, which can be safer for people and animals. They also have a smaller footprint and can be stacked higher than round bales
  • Storage - Mini balers are easier to store than larger balers.
  • Weight - Square bales are easy to lift and move around.

Mini Balers Disadvantages are:

  • Cost - Square balers tend to cost more than mini round balers.
  • Weather - Square bales are very prone to moisture absorption in case of bad weather conditions. Square bales can't be rained on.
  • Horsepower Requirements - Square balers tend to require at least 35 horsepower at the tractor's PTO and a minimum tractor weight of 3000 pounds.
  • Complexity - Square balers are mechanically complicated and must be properly set up to avoid issues.

Coming Soon

Rotary Tiller Buyers Guide

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Grooming/Finish Mower Buyers Guide