Labor Saver

A new hay-handling system saves time and preserves the quality of small bales.

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
By the time hay seasons ends, Scott Woolfolk (left) and dad, Johnny, will have handled more than 25,000 small, 50-pound hay bales, selling most into the area’s horse market, Image by Victoria G. Myers

The Woolfolk name may be best known in cattle circles where the Tennessee family has a reputation for high-quality registered Herefords. But, there’s more than cattle to this 153-year-old Century Farm. Most of the locals around Jackson know the Woolfolks as hay farmers. Scott Woolfolk and dad, Johnny, are OK with that. Especially after a year like this one.

“This has been a record year for us in hay production,” Scott says. “We never had to irrigate, and we will end up with, on average, 19,000 pounds of forage off of each acre for the season. You don’t get many years like this.”

That level of production will mean by the time haying season ends, they will have handled around 25,000 small, 50-pound hay bales. It’s a massive job for a small family business, one that needed more efficiency.

CONSIDERING THE OPTIONS. After a lot of research in 2016, the Woolfolks took the plunge and invested in a piece of hay equipment you don’t see much south of the Mason-Dixon line, a Bale Baron. Johnny says Marcrest Manufacturing, out of Ontario, Canada, manufactures the equipment. He and Scott studied the system for a long time, watching videos online and talking to other producers. They bought a pickup model, the 4240P.

After using the Bale Baron for the better part of two summers, there’s no buyers’ remorse on the part of the Woolfolks. It’s turned hauling and storing hay into a more manageable job. In some cases, Scott says it’s helped them get hay bales loaded out of the field before one of the state’s frequent summer thunderstorms soaks through all their hard work.

“Back in June, we weren’t out of the hayfields 30 minutes, and it started to pour. In our old system, we would have had those bales sitting out in the field getting wet. But this summer, when that happened, we had all 750 bales under the barn,” Scott says.

A Bale Baron is towed behind the tractor, picking up 400 to 500 small individual bales per hour. The model the Woolfolks have bundles 21 of these small bales together, securing them with twine, not metal bands. That was important to Scott.

“I saw a machine similar to this by another company,” he notes. “It did the same thing essentially, but it used metal bands. I didn’t want those in the fields. It just opens the door to problems. This system uses hay string and has a knotting system. That is my preference.”

QUALITY AND PRODUCTION. In Tennessee this summer, these small bermuda bales were selling for $6 to $8 each. Alfalfa bales were closer to $10. The Woolfolks market hay out of their barn, but they also haul it into Jackson where R and J Feed Supply sells it to walk-in customers.

The Woolfolks put a lot of effort into their hay crop, which they typically cut four times a year, weather permitting. Bales are either Sungrazer bermuda or alfalfa. Scott says in the horse market, the focus is on protein levels, which average 14 to 17%.

Hay area normally averages 75 acres on bermuda and 30 on alfalfa. High yields mean a lot of nutrients are leaving the soil every time they cut hay. “Bermuda takes a lot out of the soil,” Scott says. “We fertilize heavily every cutting using granular ammonium nitrate. Twice a year, we apply phosphorus and potassium to all of our hayfields, usually before the first cutting and after the second.”

The Woolfolks average 80 to 100 units of ammonium nitrate after every cutting of bermuda. Phosphorous and potassium applications are made in April and in July. They average 100 units each per treatment.

“When you grow hay continually, if you’re not putting something back, you can lose your stands,” Scott stresses. “Usually, when a bermuda stand is killed, it’s from a lack of nutrients, not winterkill like we tend to blame it on.”

For More Information:

> The Woolfolks’ annual bull and female sale is Feb. 23, 2019, at the Tennessee Livestock Center. For more information on that sale or their hay operation, visit

> The Bale Baron


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