Harvest is in full swing on the farm and there is no chance of things slowing down anytime soon. Today will be our last night of swathing grass seed and we just began combining grass seed fields that were swathed a couple weeks ago. Once swathing is completely finished, we will be operating four combines during the day and then baling the harvested windrows at night.
If you are not very familiar with farming, you might be wondering what a swather is. A swather is a tractor, that has a header, with blades and teeth that swath/mow down fields. In our case, we are using them to swath grass seed fields. You might be recognize them more commonly being used in haying operations, like alfalfa fields.
Pictured is one of three swathers that we use during harvest.
Here is an upclose look at the swather header. On the bottom are the blades/teeth that move back and forth to cut the crop.
An up close look at the swather blades. Each row of blades has to be rebuilt and changed out every couple nights to keep them sharp and cutting easier.
A typical night of swathing starts around 10 PM and lasts until around 9 AM in the next morning. Grass seed fields need to be swathed at night when there is dew on the field to help with cutting conditions. The fields cannot be too wet or too dry, they have to be just right. Many things can happen during the night, especially breakdowns, so drivers have to stop and try to repair their swather. Sometimes this is not possible because they might need a specific part from the parts store and will have to wait until morning. All of this can delay harvest and put things further behind.
Fields also have to be cut a certain way. First several passes are made around the outside of the field. Next, if they are a field that is irrigated by a pivot, the rows follow the lines of the pivot wheel tracks, making arcs. If they are irrigated by a wheel line, they are cut into straight rows going back and forth.
Once drivers are done in the morning, the swathers are serviced (refueled, repaired if needed, greased and cleaned) to get ready for the next night.
Swathing can be a lot of fun, but also requires a strong amount of patience for when things can go wrong in the middle of night. Next, learn about combining and baling grass seed fields.