A rake running between a tractor and baler can save a field pass and cut labor and fuel costs.
Mack Scott has gone through a lot of equipment changes in his 50-plus years in the hay business, and says his new rake is “the best thing I’ve seen.”
In December 2011, this Goshen, AL, commercial hay grower bought the first Flex Rake, a wheel rake that runs between his tractor and baler, with the pto shaft that drives the baler enclosed in its frame. Scott says it eliminates a tractor, rake and driver from his 700-acre haying operation, saving him time and money.
But only about a dozen other growers have cashed in on those benefits so far, reports Joe Waldorff, vice president of Flex Rake, a Goshen company formed by inventor Mark Johnson and six local investors.
Johnson introduced his invention at the 2011 Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, GA. Then, last February, Hay & Forage Grower reported that he was building rakes full time with one employee, hoping to hire more help as sales grew.
Most of those sales haven’t materialized yet, though Waldorff believes they will.
“I think that we as a young company made some mistakes,” he says. “We’re restructuring and we’re going to concentrate mostly on our area. We’re also going back to our standard design. We got ahead of ourselves on some things, and we’re going back to the basics.”
Going forward, marketing will get more emphasis, and production may eventually be outsourced to a bigger company, says Waldorff.
Flex Rakes now are available in eight- and 10-wheel models, both adjustable to make 4’- or 5’-wide windrows. A 6’-shorter telescoping model is no longer offered.
Scott makes 4 x 6’ round bales of bermudagrass hay after mowing, fluffing and raking the crop. He bought his baler two years ago, replacing two smaller ones, and the 10-wheel Flex Rake further reduced his haymaking costs. The tractor-rake-baler combination is long but easy to maneuver in small fields, he says.
“One of the disadvantages is it doesn’t back up very well,” Scott adds. “But as you use it you learn certain ways to do things.”
The company’s website says it rakes cleaner than other models, thanks to pinned joints where the hydraulically operated wings attach to the frame. Scott hasn’t seen that, but since hay is raked directly into the baler, there are no windrows to get scattered on windy days, and he says the rake moves hay gently.
“It has a different pitch than your conventional rake, and it just rolls the hay softly. It works mighty well for our operation. I would never want to go back to the other way.
For more information, call Waldorff at 334-488-0112 or visit flexrakellc.com.