Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Always wished you knew more about how all those bales sitting in the fields as you drive by are made? Did FFT member Bruce Figger’spost back in August really spark your interest in the baling process? If so, today’s your lucky day. J Many things can be baled and used as feedstuffs for cattle. I’m just going to go through a quick overview of the general process for those that aren’t very familiar with it.
A swather is used to lay down whatever crop you want to bale. When using a sickle swather like the one shown below, the sickles on the front of the swather header cut the hay at its base and an auger moves everything to the middle of the header where the conditioner is located. The conditioner crimps the stalk of the plant to allow air access for faster drying. This leaves windrows of hay in the field, and the bigger the swather header, the more hay there is in a windrow. The length of time that the windrow lays out to dry before being baled depends on the crop, size of the windrow, and the weather and climate conditions. If the hay is too wet when being baled, mold can grow within it, decreasing the quality. If baled too dry, quality is decreased due to loss of nutrient-rich leaves.

New Holland sickle swather

Swather cutting sorghum Sedan grass
Windrows after swathing in beautiful western Kansas!
Once the hay is dry enough, we are ready to rake and bale! Usually one person operates the rakes with the baler operator not far behind. The rakes speed up the baling process by combining two windrows into one. When baling sorghum sedan grass, as shown above, rakes may be needed to help dry out the windrow by rolling it over a couple days prior to baling.
Rakes in action

The windrow is gathered by a pickup attachment in the front of the baler and the hay is delivered into the baler where a series of belts begin rolling it into a tightly wrapped bale. There is a tensioner roller inside the baler that keeps the belts wrapped securely around the hay to ensure that the bale is packed tight from the beginning of the process to the end.

There is a sensor within the baler that will tell the operator when the bale is at the desired height. At this point, the baler will wrap the bale with either twine or net wrap. After the bale is wrapped, the operator can drop the bale out of the baler onto the field. Net wrap is used more commonly than twine because it is more efficient. This process is continued until all the windrows have been picked up and turned into bales!
This photo isn't mine but wanted you to be able to see a freshly made round bale being dropped out of a baler.
Source: ttp://
Such a pretty sight!
Hope this was as interesting to you guys as it is to me. J

Keep calm and bale on,


Monday, October 13, 2014

Baseball and Cattle By-Products

Even though I am not a Royals fan, they sure have been fun to watch this season. They have been especially fun to watch this post season. Their excitement and drive to not ever give up on a game is something that all of us need to keep in mind.

As I was watching the game the other night, I began looking at the baseballs and fielding gloves. I was wondering how much of these things that are needed in order to produce these items used to make high quality entertainment.

The University of Nebraska Agriculture Research and Development Center put together a nice bulletin that describes some of these processes that can be found here. One hide from a cow will produce 144 baseballs. One hide will also have enough leather to produce 12 baseball gloves.
For example, a typical baseball game will go through 100-120 baseballs in 1 game. By products from 1 cow hide should cover this. But each team has 25 players on their post-season roster which each of the players having at least 1 glove, resulting in the need of a little over 4 cow hides needed to produce these products.

While only 5 hides may not seem like a lot, take into account that is all that is needed for that 1 game. That is not taking anything into account for all the other games played throughout the year, players in the minor leagues, or any other products used from cattle by-products. The meat from cattle is used for food source, but also car seats, medical products, soap, shampoo, and lubricants are just a few examples of products that all contain cattle by products in them. The number of cattle needed to produce this high level entertainment grows exponentially.

For all of the Royals fans out there, I hope they continue to excel through the rest of the playoffs. They sure have been fun to watch!

Until next time,

Miles Theurer

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Agriculture's Employment Problems

The topic of immigration has been a hot button over the past decade. The media has jumped on this conversation, or heated debate may be a better term to describe it, but they have ignored the dysfunction in the legal non-immigrant visa programs that the agriculture sector so heavily relies on. I have been exposed to the problem in the status-quo because my family is actively experiencing these problems.

2014 Harvest Crew: 5 H-2A visas & 9 J-1 visa  
My family has a farm and a custom harvesting operation (Frederick Harvesting) where we hire approximately 22 seasonal employees for 8 months of the year to help with the preparation of the harvest season and then be either a combine operator or truck driver for both the summer and fall seasons. Of the 22 seasonal employees about half of the crew is American and the other half is foreign. Our foreign employees are from countries you wouldn't normally think that the agricultural sector relies on; England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia mainly. We hire these men their first year on a J-1 visa.  The J-1 visa is described as, "The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs" according to After the workers come through this visa, if they loved their work and want to come back and work for us for the next season they must come back through the H-2A visa program. This is where the dysfunction happens.

The H-2A visa program is described by the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services as, "The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs." (

2010 crew: 3 H-2A visas, 8 J-1 visas
The root of the problem is that Americans don't want to hold these jobs and there is a line of young skilled foreigners that want these jobs. The H-2 visa program is a cycle of dysfunction and frustration for the employer and the foreign employee. The employee works and is trained on the job for 8 months, has to go to their home country for 4 months with uncertainty if they will even be accepted to the visa program for the next year. This makes for an uncertain and unstable labor force for the employer. When talking to my dad who deals with these problems hands on he said, "The program needs to be a more reliable system so that the employee and I don't have to play a waiting game." He went on to point out that these workers are legal and paying taxes in this country to work here. Something clearly must change.

The Ag sector is voicing that they want change. A logical fix that is being discussed in D.C. is to grant an H-2A visa for a 3-year period with the worker going home during the off season. Another one of the major changes that is being lobbied for is for the H-2A visa program is to include sheepherders and dairy workers. The dairy industry is running into the same problem; not enough American workers that want to do the job.

Karly Frederick
Ag-business Major


Related Posts with Thumbnails