Baling Hay With a UTV or an ATV
This hay was made by a UTV
Baling Hay with a UTV startup
If you're looking to bale hay and aren't ready to purchase a tractor or baler, this guide will help you. Tractors are expensive and it takes at a minimum 3 implements to accomplish this task. In this tutorial, we'll be looking at a small operation of hay, generally a few acres that can be baled in a number of hours using inexpensive equipment we had around our small hobby farm.
All hay operations require at a minimum (1) a way to mow the tall stocks of hay, (2) a rake system to create windrows, and (3) a baler to create square or round bales.
The UTV trail mower or bush hog can be used to clear a field
Most small farms or acreages with lots of prairie have something a little better than a riding mower, usually with break-away blades to create a walking trail or for clearing brush. Give this implement another use by running it through a hay field. Generally mowing in a circular pattern and going over the ground once works well. Hay should be long and easy to rake later, not in tiny bits and pieces.
This implement can be pulled by any UTV or ATV
Hay field should be mowed and ready for raking
Move onto the rake implement. Generally a rake can be any DIY wood with tines attached. The one you see here has been modified multiple times due to wear and tear.
This DIY rake has detachable wheels for transfer, taken from a bike trailer
The rake sits on smaller wheels to roll along the same height as the tines
Raking hay with a UTV
Raking with a UTV or ATV
The rake is lifted and turned every several hundred feet to drop out the bundle of grass into a windrow. This process took maybe 30 minutes to move around forming the grass into a star shape until working towards the center of a one acre field. Once these windrows were finished, it would take a least a day for the hay to dry in the sun and be ready for baling. Generally, if it was going to be used for feed and not straw, then it would be important to return sooner while it still has some green indicating moisture is left over.
Come back when it's time to collect
Gathering the hay for the baler
Many people who use box balers will either bring the hay to the baler, or bring the baler to the hay. Since it was a very hot day, it was instead wiser to bring the hay to the baler, where the space was manageable. My ATV does not have a cart, but the bed of the UTV came in handy.
This baler is a typical box baler, built from scrap wood. Sitting on top is a plunger that is used to compact the hay and shape it, once the box is full.
Box baler made from scrap wood
Box baler setup
From the inside and back, it is important to run a 6 foot length piece of twine from the back into two loosely holding screws at the bottom and through the front. In doing this, the twine can eventually be tied off.
From the backside, now clamp it shut
Stuff the box baler with hay
From this point, stuff as much hay into the box baler until it is full. Once full, use the plunger to pack the hay into a bale.
Now run the back twine from the top and tie it to the front
And now you've got yourself a bale!
Baling is easy, but time consuming
Expect to devote some real time to this effort, knowing that it is a great activity to share.
Stock up for the Winter
UTV or ATV has now done the work of a tractor
While it does take a bit more effort, baling hay with a UTV or ATV can be a great outdoor activity. This method is very inexpensive and perfect for a small operation.
Depending on the size of the hay field, this may not be a realistic solution, but in our case, this field is the only one we do ourselves and works out as a great solution for our chicken and goat shelters, and goat feed in the Winter. Additionally, if you have a farmer working the majority of the land, its a great task to find the leftover trimmings and areas needing cleanup afterwards.