Each piece of hay equipment is an expensive investment, even for a small farmer. The hay must be cut, dried, raked and then baled with different pieces of equipment and all this equipment must be attached to a tractor. The price of baling hay has gone up dramatically in the last few years because of all the innovative equipment and technology.
A small farmer can use a 25 horsepower tractor to perform the job. Depending on whether you want to purchase a new tractor or a used tractor makes a big difference in the price. You can spend up to $25,000 for a new 25 hp tractor. Used tractors from auctions or other farmers wanting to upgrade can be found for $3,000 to $5,000 or less depending on the age of the unit.
The mower is best bought used by a small farmer. A sickle-bar mower is the least expensive mower and is good enough to cut the amount of hay a small farmer has available. Used sickle-bar mowers can be found for as little as $200. A mower with a conditioner attachment is much more expensive and not required by a smaller farmer. The conditioner is a component that rolls and crimps the forage so the hay will dry quicker.
Tedder and Inverter
A small farmer will probably not need a tedder and inverter to help dry the amount of hay found in his field. A tedder spreads the forage in the field so air can circulate through the cut forage. The inverter flips the forage to allow the bottom part of the forage to dry in the sunlight. The tedder and inverter are optional pieces of hay equipment and are only necessary in areas where drying the forage must be done quicker. A new tedder and inverter can cost as much as $3,000, but a used piece can be found for around $500.
Hay rakes are used to gather the dried hay up into a row or what is called a "windrow." Three types of hay rakes are on the market as of 2011: the rotary, wheel and parallel bar hay rakes. The parallel bar collects the most hay into a windrow for the baler to collect, and the small farmer needs to collect at much hay as possible. A used rake of any type can be found for as little as $500; new ones cost as much as $2,800 depending on the type.
The small farmer only needs a square baler and not the balers that make a large round bale of hay. The round balers cost a lot, even used ones exceed $3,000. A good, serviceable square baler can be found from $500 to $2,500 depending on where your small farm is located and what time of year it is purchased. The baler compresses the hay into a packed bale weighing around 38 or 40 pounds, easily manageable by a lone farmer.
Once all the hay is cut, raked and baled, the small farmer must pick up the hay and store it in a barn or storage facility. Wagons are probably the least expensive part of hay equipment and can be used for other jobs on the farm. Plan on spending anywhere from $100 for a used wagon that needs a little repair to $1,000 for a used wagon not requiring attention.