Farming is the foundation Eckenberg Farms’ success. Starting on 150 acres in 1963, we now farm over 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) of prime alfalfa and timothy land in the Columbia River basin, east of the Cascade Mountains range in Washington state.
We also source hay from a stable group of dedicated growers located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, farming over 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares). The mutual respect and cooperation between our suppliers and Eckenberg Farms is key to delivering consistent quality to our customers. We work closely with our farmers to grow clean, high quality alfalfa and other forages that meet our customer’s exacting requirements.


Central Washington is blessed with rich volcanic soil that produces some of the world’s highest quality alfalfa, timothy, grass hays and many other agricultural commodities (buckwheat, onions, apples, grapes and potatoes). Rainfall averaging only 7 inches per year is augmented by plentiful water from the Columbia river that flows through the state. The Grand Coulee Dam and a network of irrigation canals delivers a consistent, stable supply of water to our fields.
A typical center-pivot irrigation unit covers a field of 125 acres (50.6 hectares).


Swathing is where the harvest begins. This machine cuts the hay near ground level and collects the hay in windrows, so it can dry in the sun and wind.


After a few days of drying, the sun-cured hay is raked. This turns the cut hay and consolidates two windrows into one. This helps dry the hay uniformly by fluffing and by exposing the hay close to the ground, so sun and wind can dry it prior to baling.


This is the process of forming the hay into a shaped bale. The raked hay is fed into the pickup mechanism and the baler forms it into the desired shape. There are many different bale sizes and types, depending on the end-market.
The challenge for farmers is to ensure bales are clean, free of soil or weeds and with just the right amount of moisture to ensure good leaf retention and quality.
Baled hay can be stored in the field under protective tarps or transported via large flatbed trucks to our facility, where it is kept under covered storage barns out of the rain and sun. Hay bales are carefully weighed graded and assigned lot numbers.
In the 1980’s, many changes came to farmers in the US Pacific Northwest. The newly developed 4X4 Big Bale machine quickly gained acceptance from both farmers and US dairies. The ‘big bale’ offered economies of scale and profitability because of its larger unit size and lower labor & equipment costs. In the year 2000, the 4X4 big bale gained a new, smaller-sized sister, the 3X4 bale, which is a more convenient size for farmers that produce grass hays.
During the same period, the demand for smaller 3-tie bales increased in Asian markets due to the development of the ‘half-cut’ 25-kg bale. The half-cut worked well for all involved in the distribution chain: shippers, exporters, warehouse and dairymen. Here, then, are the basic types of hay bales produced in Washington State: