I grew up on a beef cow farm in east central Missouri. That means we needed and put up quite a bit of hay. It also means we experienced what a lot of growers may experience this spring – rain on mowed hay. With a wet spring that seems to hang on, getting that first cutting of hay up could be a challenge.
I've never forgotten my dad saying after one of those untimely rains, 'I sure wish we had a tedder.' Not sure why he never looked for one but I also know I never saw one in our neighborhood. I actually saw my first hay tedder at the Farm Progress Hay Expo in the late '80s. More on that later.
Basically a tedder is used after cutting and before windrowing to "fluff up" or "stir" the hay and speed up the drying / curing process.
According to Wikipeida, tedders came into use in the second half of the nineteenth century.
'While Charles Wendel claims in his Encyclopedia of American farm implements & antiques that the machine wasn't introduced to the United States until the 1880s, there are enough indications that the tedder was in use in the 1860s—The New York Times reports on its efficacy in 1868, and in that same year the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture in Maine comments on the American-made Hubbard's hay tedder, which had been on the market since 1863; according to the Maine report, in 1859 the machine was "an implement lately imported from England.'
Modern day tedders
'The technology designed in modern tedders aims to spread the material evenly with each pass, and prevent damage to the turf, notes says Matt Jaynes, CLAAS product coordinator. 'It spreads the crop evenly across the mowing width and gives it maximum exposure to the light and air to help it dry down faster.'
While the end goal of a tedder is the same for all users, the path taken to achieve that goal can vary by operator and crop, he continues.
'Some people let the crop shrink after mowing, then ted the field the next morning when there’s light dew. Others will ted right after going through with the mower,' Jaynes says. 'Typically I like to let it sit for a day and then go after it the next morning. That way you will often have maximum leaf retention and the crop will be a little fluffier.'
See tedders in action at the Hay Expo
With my 'life-long' interest in hay tedders, so to speak, I always enjoy watching them (and other hay making equipment) in action at the Farm Progress Hay Expo. And I always think about my dad's wish for one when rain dumped on our freshly mowed hay.
You can see a number of different tedders in action at this year's Farm Progress Hay Expo near Waukon, Iowa, on June 19 and 20.