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AMY KIRK: Bumper crop of hay bales exciting

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Some people get revved up about going on a carnival ride or riding a bull for its excitement factor. Ranchers on the other hand, get revved up when they can drive by, admire and count their round bales.

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After consecutively experiencing dry spells that produced a puny hay crop, counting bales on a good hay year is not so much a to-do item as it is one of life's little pleasures to a rancher. Seeing double the amount of hay than recent years past can excite a rancher so much that if hay gets rained on or equipment breaks down the setbacks aren't nearly as frustrating.

Seeing a field full of nice, round bales can be so picturesque the view compels me to get out my camera and take pictures of our hayfields because our hay looks so bountiful and beautiful. My rancher finds looking at photographs of his hayfields full of bales just as entertaining as driving by to look at them.

Putting up a lot of hay can boost the morale on a ranch because having more hay put up than in years past is a relief. A good hay crop means there's enough hay to feed a cow herd throughout the winter months and maybe have some carryover hay for the following year. Finding out how many bales we put up on a good hay year becomes an enjoyable and anticipated task instead of a dreaded one. As soon as another field gets baled up, the hubs gets the baler parked and goes back out to count the bales in the field.

Counting and looking at bales in each field has become an evening activity the kids and I have taken part in, but not with nearly as much enthusiasm as my husband does. Bale counting is done so past years' bale counts can be compared and is also part of the winter feeding planning process. The hubs keeps detailed records of how many bales each field produced for the past 11 years and how many bales we fed every winter. These stats tell us whether we put up enough of our own hay to feed our cows through the winter or if we'll have to buy more hay to make up the difference.

When my husband asks any of us if we want to go for a drive, we've learned to find out what his motives are. In the past, if he asked us if we want to go to Pringle, it meant going to the Hitchrail for supper or checking the rain gauge at the barn by Pringle. Now it's to look at hay. He gets great satisfaction out of looking at his hayfields when they're filled with lots of bales. He likes someone to go along so he can count them or just look at all the hay with him, but for the rest of us, looking at a hayfield once does the trick. It doesn't help that we have fields next to the highway for easy, drive-by hay admiring. Neat-looking, tightly-baled hay along the highway is a big deal. There are people who will notice such details.

The way to most men's hearts may be through their stomach but the best way to my man's heart is to grab my camera in the evening and say, "Wanna go look at the hay?"

-- Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.

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