Hay rakes were invented in the early 1800’s and were utilized to rake hay into rows. Once in rows, the hay could be gathered much faster for sheathing (putting the hay in bundles). The horse drawn hay rake had a seat the farmer could sit on while raking the hay; making the task not only quicker but easier as well.
Hay Rakes – Past, Present and Future
The main body of a vintage hay rake was wooden and the wheels were made from metal. The hay rake teeth were attached to a cylindrical mechanism that would rotate around and collect the hay in rows. The ability to harvest hay more quickly was very important in the evolution of farming and feeding a growing population.
The industrial revolution that began in the 1700’s also led to widespread population explosions. As the population increased, the demand for food to feed the masses also grew. When people immigrated to North America, they did not have real estate property, so did they have a means to grow or produce their own food. This led to great strides in the technology and equipment used to produce food.
Cattle farming and livestock production was increased in order to meet the dietary needs of a growing population. The cattle required hay to feed them; thus the need for hay increased as well. The first used hay rakes invented allowed more than double the amount of hay to be harvested than the old hand harvester methods.
Around the turn of the century (1900) when tractors were introduced, hay rakes were built to attach at the back of the tractor. Initially, the tractors were quite slow, running a few miles per hour; but as the engines increased in size and capabilities; hay harvesting grew faster and faster.
Today, hay rakes come in three different types:
- Parallel bar rakes are a very common rake that places hay in rows that are easily picked up by a hay baler.
- Rotary rakes sometimes have a dual function by being able to rake or ted (turn the hay for drying).
- Wheel rakes can be operated at a much higher rate of speed than the other types of hay rakes. Due to the high speed of operation, they may pick up rocks more easily.
Modern rakes cut a much wider swath of hay and at a much faster rate. This increased speed does come with it hazards. Serious injury and/or death can occur if appropriate safety measures are not followed. You should never get in the way of the teeth of the rake or attempt to detangle the machine while it is running.
The older hay rakes are seldom used for raking hay anymore. Most of them are in private or public museums. They stand as a testament to the American farmers’ ingenuity and dedication to crop production. Some people have a passion for collecting and restoring them for future generations to enjoy.
If you are looking for a functional rake, any farm implement store should be able to accommodate you. They may even have leads on an old horse drawn hay rake if this interests you.
With today’s technology hay producers have several equipment choices for their farming needs. New and used hay rakes are used to accomplish two main purposes in farming: swathing (moving) hay into rows (called windrows) and turning the windrows over to allow thorough drying of the hay. Used hay rakes are found in three different types; each having benefits for efficient hay harvesting. A great deal of testing and research has derived these conclusions about each type.
Evaluating Three Types of Hay Rakes
- Rotary price guide shows some models of the rotary rake for sale to be the most expensive, with a few models exceeding forty thousand dollars.
- Work well for thick wet grasses.
- Available in pull type (most popular) or mounted.
- Large size rotors and multiple rotor models increase amount of hay put into windrows.
- Windrows formed allow increased air to circulate and better drying, which is great for large round bales.
- Repairs and replacement parts are more expensive.
- Lowest cost of the three types of rake.
- Able to rake widths up to three feet.
- Follows ground layout for less hay loss when raking.
- Used in large scale commercial operations frequently.
- Must be used at slightly slower speeds than other rakes.
Parallel Bar Rake
- Where the rake used most commonly in the upper Midwest, but sales have dropped dramatically.
- Does not contaminate hay with dirt and debris as much as wheel rakes.
- Wide widths are not available making them take longer to harvest hay with.
- More move-able parts and a power train that require more maintenance.
- Controls, hydraulics and frame to contend with. Other rakes are not as complicated.
- Heavier than other rakes.
- More likely to pick up rocks with hay.
- Become clogged more frequently when hay is wet or heavy
When purchasing previously owned hay rakes, you will need to look at the used hay rake parts, specifically the teeth. If the teeth will need replaced; you should check to make sure you can obtain them. Parts are sometimes not easy to locate.
You should also check the used hay rake gearbox. This is another component that wears out and is difficult to find replacement parts for. It is not as simple as just knowing the make and model of hay rake either. Sometimes the gearbox has already been changed before and it may not have necessarily been replaced with an identical one.
There is a wide variety in hay rakes and they do not all operate the same way. It is rare the owner will have the operator’s manual (but it is great if they do). Ask for a demonstration of how the rake operates. This can save you a great deal of time trying to figure out where all the controls are and how the rake functions.
Buying used hay rakes has the potential to save you money if you are careful. Get as much information as possible about the rake before you buy it and make sure you can obtain any parts you may need for repairs.
Available in pull type (most popular) or mounted.