The Ultimate Guide to Tedding Hay

Haymaking is always about how to strike a critical balance between growing time and weather conditions. Between mowing, tedding and raking, growers need to rely on science but also the senses to judge the right time to bring in the crop. The goal? To produce the largest quantity of the most nutritive forage for the best price possible.

Hay tedding: care & curing after mowing

More and more, tedding is a key part of haymaking. A traditional European technique, tedding is the process used by growers to cure mown hay, particularly in cooler climates where drying hay thoroughly can be a challenge.

Tedding speeds up drying of hay and other forage through physical manipulation:

  • Mixing helps rotate dry grass with green
  • Spreading maximizes sun exposure
  • Fluffing increases air circulation

Tedding offers an array of benefits

Because the time window for proper haymaking can be so short and difficult to judge, growers are increasingly adding tedding into the mix because of the variety of advantages this step offers.

Less time

Properly performed, tedding can cut several days off drying so growers can move on to raking and baling. Depending on crop and conditions, some growers ted just once while others take a second pass.

Improved quality

Tedding can dramatically reduce the residual moisture content in the product which can lead to spoilage during storage. The right handling by thoughtfully designed machines can accomplish this, while not overly damaging delicate crops such as alfalfa and clover.

As climate changes, growers adapt

For decades, growers across America have slowly been adding tedding into their haymaking operations. Some have resisted, believing that tedding resulted in too much leaf loss.

However, as weather patterns change and become less predictable, harvesting has become a more volatile and precarious time.

Growers simply can’t take the chance not to ted hay. In the past few decades, this practice has spread from the Northeast into the Midwest and Great Plains states as growers have had to contend with rapidly shifting droughts and deluges.

Tips on choosing the right tedder

This tool offers more flexibility during haymaking time, but selecting the right model is dependent on the operation’s specifics.

Mechanically speaking, tedders either utilize tines in a spinning or fluffing action, positioned directionally to achieve optimal results.

Spinning distributes hay more broadly, using more tines per rotor to reduce clumping and damage. This is a useful and gentle tool to work multiple windrows at once.

Fluffing is particularly handy after a downpour as the process whips more air through mown produce to improve drying.

Acreage & Terrain

First, consider the acreage in need of tedding. This will guide decision-making between light-duty tedders geared toward smaller acreage or heavy-duty models built to really put in the hours over large fields.

  • Light-duty tedders will still offer key features, such as rotor quantity and positioning variety, but without the need for a tractor with hardcore horsepower pulling it.
  • Heavy-duty tedders offer greater tedding width, additional rotors, positioning capability, foldable frames, and other features that promote maneuverability. But these models also demand more power to pull.

    Large haymaking operations should take a look at Deere’s TD34 Series. These models are easy to haul into remote areas, with foldable arms and locking transport wheels.

Next, choose the tedder for your terrain.

Manufacturers have designed different models to handle a variety of conditions in multiple fields. Look for features such as fully adjustable tines and tine armstedder height adjustment settings, plus floatation tires that can handle divots and hillocks with ease.

Uneven fields? A great model to consider is Deere’s TD13 Series tedders, featuring hydraulic adjustment capabilities and balloon tires that glide over bumpy ground.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to ted hay?

After mowing, growers let the crop sit for a day or so to allow moisture to evaporate from the cut crop. Then, tending takes place to rotate the unwilted grass underneath to the top. But pay attention to the forecast in case of rain.

Should alfalfa be tedded?

Growers have historically been wary of tedding legume crops like alfalfa, for fear of leaf loss. But it’s possible to ted alfalfa, especially within hours of cutting. Grass crops have greater flexibility, but command less of a price.

What is the difference between a hay rake and tedder?

Tedding comes first and tedders are used to fluff and dry cut grass in the curing process. This is followed by raking, then baling. Rakes gather up tedded hay into bundles that are easily baled for sale and storage.

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