One of the most important jobs that are done in the field is by the rake operator. We headed to the field with Rich from Rick's Custom Baling and rode with him while he opened up some fields, made some windrows with his Krone twin rotary rake.
Rich: You know what, I don't know if most people do what I'm doing here, but I bring everything in [away from the edge of the field] and then I bring it back out again because that gets it out of the grass and everything else. If you throw a windrow into [the high grass] the poor bailing guy, he's got to fight that grass and everything else.
Neil: So that that was my question in getting out of here with you today. I think a lot of people look a baling and they think you're just shoving grass into a cube. And there's a lot of, call it artistry, in this. So on our outside pass, this kind of starts everything for the way that you're gonna cut it.
Rich: Yes, as I said, it just cleans it up. This is part of somebody's yard, so I'm bringing everything in out of their yard because when they ted it just spreads all over the place.
Neil: All right so we're coming in partway through the process here, right?
Rich: This was already mowed, and I think it was tedded this morning.
Neil: Okay so you got from cutting it off, to drying it down enough that we could rake it up in a couple of hours.
Rich: I believe it was mowed on Monday. This creates an extra pass but at least it makes a little cleaner right.
Neil: So rake-wise, this is a twin-rotor delivering to the left-hand side.
Rich: You can drop that curtain in the middle and spread the rotors out to do two rows of ones at one shot. We do that a lot when we're doing first cutting, small baling because the wind rows would be so big if you did it this way. This is second cutting here, so we just put it into one row. The other benefit by doing it this way, if you're along tree lines you can bring everything out and get away so the guy following you isn't running into the trees with the baler and the other equipment.
Neil: So operationally this rake is PTO driven for the rotors, right? Then when we made that turn there, you're using what one hydraulic cylinder in order to raise the rakes.
Rich: Actually there's two, there's one on each side of that. One lever though from the inside of the tractor, so that's really our only function here. Flip it on and lift it up. These rotary rakes are the greatest thing versus the old roller bar.
Neil: It is remarkable how clean it is, especially like when we were coming around the other side over here.
Rich: The thing with second cutting, with doing it this way, you can put four rows into one and it makes for a decent windrow then, Because if you have just smaller one, you're bailing and bailing and you don't feel like you're getting anywhere. Here again, I don't know if everybody does it that way, but that just seems like it works out for us.
Neil: Your sense of where the curtain is and where the rotors are, that just comes from hours of running this thing? Because if this was me, I'd be turning around backwards to look what I'm doing.
Rich: I gauge off that tire right there. You're just letting the front tire track along the windrow. These type of rakes don't like corners, because you might lose a little bit in your corner but other than that these things are nice they really are.
Neil: So is this relaxing then or is this working?
Rich: I enjoy it, I really do. And since this [field] is so small, I'll just do all the headlands again, because you've got to give the baler guy room to turn around there. So we're just basically opening up the field right now.
Neil: So what would be the wrong way to do this?
Rich: The wrong way would be to just start zigzagging back and forth without the loop around the outside. I try to keep my rows nice and straight so the guy doesn't have to swerve all over the place. So we're lifting here, so when we go across the windrow we're not mixing up what we are doing and then making the turn back around. So now after this next pass here, we have the field opened up. Then we can go and start going back and forth because that gives us plenty of room to turn the equipment around at the end of the rows. The one thing Rick does say, he always says that I go too slow. It is nice you kick the tractor in here and keep the thing at low RPMs and it's not screaming at you.
We're going to talk about today raking. We're going to hit a couple of things. We're going to talk about a wheel rake which is this is a carted style rake. We're going to look at some other type of wheel rakes and then we're going to talk about some rotary rakes. We're going to tell you what we feel is what's best for what operation, try to answer those questions that say, "What rakes for me? What's the best rake out there and why should I choose this rake?"