The first cutting of hay is usually made around the first of June in the Finger Lakes. When I was growing up, public schools were always finished by the middle of May so that the dairy farmers had the help they needed when the hay was ready to be cut. I love the smell of freshly cut hay and with the equipment that is available to dairy farmers today, the job is not so labor intensive as it was when I was growing up as we baled the hay into 85 pound rectangular bales which were loaded onto wagons and then the wagon loads of hay bails were stored in the barn for the dairy cows to eat over the winter.
Most dairy farmers use the round bales which are not so tightly compressed and then these bails are wrapped with a layer of plastic on the outside and then stored near the dairy barn where they will be used as dairy feed in the winter. An interesting variation that I saw near Potter Valley was the wrapping of round hay bales end to end along the road so that they will accessible during the winter months.
Other dairy farmers choose to chop the first cutting of hay into “haylage” and store it in a concrete bunker, or in a silo, or in one of those long white plastic tubes that you see besides the barns. One of the dairy farmers near Gorham, NY runs his tractor backwards. I am not sure why he does it this way but perhaps it keeps the tractor from running over the newly cut hay before it is chopped.
The biggest change in making hay today is that the equipment is designed so you don’t have to make as many passes in the field and thus most hay operations are reduced to a one man operation. Even so, it still looks like work to me!