Baling solitary but rewarding
Mason Frank drives a John Deere 7330 Premium tractor across a field near Sunflower and 110th Rds., picking up bales of hay as temperatures near 100 degrees.
The heat doesn’t seem to faze him.
Frank, 23, hadn’t worked on a farm before he moved to the Marion area three years ago from Garden City. After he helped move cattle for his father-in-law, Donnie Hett, one day, “I found out this is what I wanted to do.”
He spent much of last week baling brome and hauling it across Sunflower Rd., just as he has since May.
And just like last year, drought is a concern.
“This is half of an average year,” Hett said.
Frank got 19 bales out of the field compared with closer to 30 last year.
Baling likely will end in August or September.
“It all depends on what Mother Nature decides to give us as far as moisture,” he said.
Hett won’t say how many head of cattle he has — “all of them,” he joked at first.
The truth is that he has too many in bad years and not enough in good years, he said.
Brome and alfalfa are what the cattle will eat this winter, and Frank understands the important role baling plays on a ranch.
Seeing the fruits of his labor is rewarding, he said. It’s like mowing a yard.
“You get to step back and look at everything that just got baled,” Frank said.
He can fit 14 bales on a trailer. They normally haul 25 bales with two trailers at a time.
He bales three or four times in an average week.
“It depends on how much hay gets swathed,” he said. “We have to give it a little bit of time to air-dry before it gets baled.”
It’s best to bale brome in the heat of the afternoon and alfalfa in the evening, when humidity is just right, Frank said.
“You don’t want to bale it when it’s too hot out, like the brome, because you lose the leaf on the stem, and that’s where all the nutrition comes from,” he said.
Frank enjoys the solitary nature of baling and hauling hay.
He listens to music or podcasts while he works. The tractor is air-conditioned, but when it’s 100 degrees or more, working in a field is a hot job.
During the past three years, Frank has learned how to fix “quite a bit” of the equipment he uses in his job as a farmhand.
“It’s a learning experience every day I go to work,” Frank said.
He’s learned to pay close attention to weather forecasts.
“I normally check it a couple times throughout the day to keep myself informed and to have discussions with Donnie,” he said. “We don’t want to be putting down hay when it rains because it ruins the quality of it.”
In the winter, he spends a lot of his time feeding cattle.
“All these bales we pick up in the summer is what we feed in the winter,” he said.
Sometimes, Hett sells hay to other ranchers. That’s not likely this year, Frank said.
“This year, we might be buying hay,” Frank said. “We need all the hay we can get.”
Last modified July 6, 2023