Once you use a front-mounted rake, you'll never want to do it the other way again, claims Tom Bootsma.

“No more sore necks, no more getting halfway down the field and you've got a flat tire or balled-up hay or something is missing on the rake,” he says.

His new windrower-mounted rake also removes a tractor from the haying operation, and can extend the useful life of old windrowers with worn-out heads.

Bootsma recently began manufacturing the rakes at his company, Bootsma LLC, Baker City, OR. He says it takes about half an hour to remove a windrower head and replace it with the rake. You just drive the windrower up to the rake, which is mounted on wheels, and make a few connections.

The idea came from Bootsma's brother, John, who grows 1,300 acres of hay near Baker City. John wanted to find a use for older windrowers that still run but can no longer be used for cutting and have little trade-in value. He began toying with the idea of using them for raking, and in 2000 came up with the first working model.

John made a number of modifications during the next three years as he used it on his own hay. Then, in 2004, he turned the project over to Tom Bootsma, who formed the manufacturing company. With help from a local draftsman, Bootsma made a few more changes to come up with a marketable product.

The hydraulically powered rake is controlled by an electrical panel from inside the cab. It rakes up to 27' of hay with 10' baskets or up to 30' with 12' baskets, and folds to an 8'6" transport width.

Bootsma says the rake has a simple design but is well-built and requires less maintenance than most rakes.

Prototypes have been tested extensively on John's alfalfa operation, on a Washington farm where a number of grasses are grown, and on rice straw in California.

“We've had a lot of experience and we know it works,” says Bootsma.

He says it can be interchanged with a cutting head, making the windrower a dual-purpose machine. Or if a grower buys a new windrower, he could remove the cutting head from the old one and mount the rake on it permanently.

It fits older-model Hesston, Case IH and MacDon windrowers, and he'll adapt it to fit other brands and newer models as requests come in. He says it's priced competitively with other rakes of similar quality. He plans to set up dealers throughout the country, starting in the West.

For more information, contact Bootsma at 541-519-5400 or info@bootsma.com. Or log on to www.bootsma.com.