Best Practices for Cutting Hay
When purchasing a steamer, it’s important to understand that it isn’t just going to change the way you bale your hay, it’s going to change your entire harvesting game plan. Being able to produce the moisture necessary to bale hay any time of the day or night requires adjustments. The hay operations that are most successful in implementing the DewPoint steamer are those who are willing to analyze and adjust their irrigating, cutting, raking, baling, and hauling practices. In this blog, we would like to cover the topic of cutting.
We understand that some of you may or may not own a DewPoint steamer, but As a hay producer, you will recognize that we speak your language. A thorough study of this bog and previous blogs will teach you how to integrate and utilize DewPoint technology in your operation, and how to implement cultural practices and harvest methods that will significantly modernize and streamline your forage operation. You may even be able to implement some of these practices into your operation.
In this blog, we will cover some of the common practices of cutting hay and some changes that you might consider making in your own operation after investing in a steamer.
How Much Should I Cut?
Common Practice: Limiting the Acres You Cut – Hay producers often limit the acres of hay they cut each day because they are not sure how much baling they can get done in unpredictable natural dew conditions. Cutting too much hay and not receiving the right amount of moisture will force you to either bale dry hay and shatter the leaves, or risk further loss of quality by letting it sit in the field.
Consider this Change: Cutting More Acres Per Day – Since DewPoint technology allows operators to bale 12-24 hours per day (almost anytime the hay is dry), hay producers can schedule their harvest better. They can decide how many acres they want to bale each day and then cut that many acres. Since each DewPoint/baler combo can typically bale up to 250 acres in 10-12 hours, you may be able to increase the amount of acreage you cut each day. For more on this topic check out a previous blog.
The Brackens in Enterprise, Utah converted to steamers in 2014, and they went from a 6 man baling operation to a 2 man crew. They now bale 1,600 acres in 3 days with 2 steamers.
How Wet Is Your Ground When You Cut?
Common Practice: Cutting on Wet Ground – In arid climates, many hay producers using conventional balers leave irrigation water on until a day or two before cutting. This practice draws some ground moisture into windrows for baling when the hay is cured. However, this practice can cause excess tracking and crop damage when cutting, raking, baling, and hauling hay. This also slows the curing process, causes inconsistencies in dry-down, and increases bleaching and the possibility of wet slugs in windrows.
Consider this Change: Cutting on Drier Ground – When using DewPoint steam technology, you can re-hydrate very dry hay for baling with no problems, so we aren’t forced into artificially creating moisture by cutting on wet ground. We recommend shutting off your irrigation water several days ahead of cutting to allow the ground to dry. This will not only reduce hay curing time but also reduce tracking during harvest operations, improve dry-down consistency, and decrease bleaching. Now, with the hay fully cured and ready to bale, we can apply a nice amount of steam and make high-quality hay.
You may be worried that hay regrowth might be dampened if you turn the water off too soon, but many of our customers report better yields because they can speed up their harvest cycles. Operations with DewPoint machines can cut, rake, and bale more hay each day, allowing them to get the water back on their fields sooner and take advantage of warm growing days. Many owners report either an increased last cutting yield or an extra additional cutting each year since investing in a DewPoint steamer. This was true for the Brackens.
Pivot Rotation Prior to Cutting
One thing you may also consider is the rotation of pivot irrigation systems leading up to your hay harvest. Since natural dew tends to form more heavily in low areas of a field, it is a good practice to water the low side of the field first and the high side last during the final rotation before your hay harvest. This will make your dry-down more consistent across the entire field and reduce the number of times you need to adjust your steam rates. For more on irrigation, check out a previous blog post.
In conclusion, the DewPoint hay steamer can change the way you manage your operation. Even though the steamer is only used to bale hay, it will affect your cutting practices by allowing you to cut more acreage each day, and turning off your irrigation sooner, allowing for ample dry-down time. If you have any other questions about how the steamer can change your farm, contact us.