• Custom baler Reuben Wood turns out around 20,000 large square bales and up to 200,000 small square bales annually. But he doesn’t think in quantity. “My Dad told me every bale I make is an individual product,” he says. “Somebody is going to buy it. You want it to be the best it can be.”

    Wood listened, and his customers appreciate his attention to details. They raise alfalfa, ryegrass and bermudagrass for livestock feed, and barley for straw. Their customers, in turn, range from feed stores to construction companies, as well as dairies, both in the U.S. and overseas.

    While it is up to the growers to provide well-managed, weed-free forage, Wood is in charge of cutting, swathing, windrowing, raking and baling—all in a timely manner. And while timing may not be everything, for quality hay it’s close.

    For instance, for dairy-quality alfalfa, Wood, who operates out of Palo Verde, Ariz., and has been in the business for some 43 years, says the forage needs to be cut at 28-day intervals to provide the optimum balance between quality and quantity. “It takes us 4 to 5 days to dry it down and bale it,” he adds.

    The magic spot is 15% moisture—dry enough not to mold but moist enough to retain those protein-packed leaves. “We chase moisture all the time,” says Wood. In arid Arizona, that means little sleep and good headlights. “Usually, it hits 15% between 3 and 5 a.m. We may work all day and have to leave for the next farm at 10 p.m. at night. That’s seven days a week.”

    Understandably, to meet such demanding expectations—he works about 3,000 acres in an average month—Wood expects a lot out of his equipment. He says he gets that and more with his Hesston by Massey Ferguson balers, including five Hesston 4690 small square balers and two new Hesston 2170 XD large square balers.

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