Making Quality Alfalfa Hay With Bracken Farms

The Bracken’s Tried Everything

Before Howard Bracken and his son Kirby discovered the advantages of the DewPoint steamer, they tried everything to make quality hay.  Like many others in the Western U.S., they had struggled for decades to get good natural dew to bale hay.

They started their operation with small-square balers where they would bale the hay before it was completely cured.  With small bales, baling with stem moisture wasn’t too big of a risk, but once they moved to large balers, they knew they couldn’t push their luck with stem moisture any longer because the risk of fire was too great.

The Bracken’s were having such a hard time getting dew that Howard decided to take things into his own hands.  They purchased two water trucks and started spraying water on the hay prior to baling.  Howard is the first to admit that it wasn’t perfect, but it was all that they had to work with.  This required two extra operators and more equipment, but it was better than the alternative of bone dry hay that would surely shatter during the baling process.

What Benefits Are They Seeing with The DewPoint Hay Steamer 

After seeing the machine work during Staheli West’s 72-hour challenge, they knew that they had found the solution to an age-old problem.  The Bracken’s sold two of their recently purchased balers and their water trucks and bought two brand new DewPoint machines. Howard and Kirby explain what advantages they are seeing now:

  • More Control: With the steamer the Bracken’s are able to control the type of hay that they make by adding the perfect amount of moisture in the form of steam. Kirby Bracken states, “If you’ve got dry how, you basically set it and forget it… I watch moisture 90% of the time and the baler monitor. Unless my moisture starts to change, I can adjust the steamer.”
  • More Consistency: Moisture and dew conditions can vary dramatically while baling.  Using the DewPoint steamer, you can adjust the amount and placement of the steam to make a consistent hay product every time.  Howard explains, “From the time you start baling with the steamer till you’re done, that hay is the same all the way through the whole night.”
  • More Value: Making a consistent, high-quality product every time increases hay value.  Kirby says, “[Exporters] know about steamed hay, and they prefer having the steamed hay. They have offered $5-$10 a ton more for steamed hay.
  • More Leaf Retention: Studies show that baling with steam reduces leaf loss by 58% compared to baling with dew.  Howard explains, “I can see that there is less hay dropping on the ground underneath that baler with the steamer, than you did even when you’re in good dew.”
  • More Productivity with Less Equipment: Baling with steam expands your baling window, which means that you can bale more acres with less equipment. The Bracken’s went from a 6-man crew to a 2-man crew and still get heir hay up quicker.  Kirby states, “With the two steamers and two balers, I go across 1600 acres in three days… We’re doing significantly more in less amount of time.”
  • Scheduling: So many other operations can be scheduled on a farm, but mother nature cannot be scheduled.  As long as the hay is dry, you can schedule when and how you bale your hay.  Kirby explains, “I start knowing a quota that I want to meet.  That’s my schedule and I run with it.  At the end of the day, that’s what I get done.”
  • More Yield on 4th Crop: Farmers using the steamer are seeing higher yields at the end of the year.  The faster you can cut, rake, and bale your hay, the quicker you can get the water back on the field, and preserve precious growing days.  Kirby states, “Fourth crop cutting has turned into just a regular crop now… It’s not a short crop anymore.”
  • More Possibilities: The Bracken’s are seeing benefits when it comes to 3-way hay.  Howard says, “You can get that grain hay real good and dry, and then put the steam with it… This stuff that’s steamed flakes and it’s really nice stuff.”

It’s an Investment

The steamer is a significant investment, but farmers like the Bracken’s are seeing these benefits and more.  The Bracken’s are confident that their steamers will last for years, due to the longevity of the machine.

Click HERE to read and watch Part 1 of “A Bracken Farms Story”.

 

Bracken Farms’ Struggle to Make Quality Alfalfa Hay Led Them to the DewPoint Hay Steamer

A Farm’s Struggle to Get Dew

Many hay farmers don’t truly understand the challenges that farmers face in the Western U.S. and in other arid climates, because in so many other parts of the world, people have the opposite problem.  They get to much dew and have a hard time getting the hay dry enough to bale quality hay.  However, like the Bracken’s, farmers in drier climates around the world are struggling to get enough dew to bale quality hay.  Baling hay too dry means losing more leaves and shattering the crop during baling, so it’s critical to have just the right amount of moisture on the hay.  The problem is, mother nature is inconsistent and often doesn’t provide any moisture at all.

Enterprise, Utah’s Climate

The Bracken’s deal with a variety of climatic conditions.  In June it is often hot, windy, and dry with temperatures of around 95-100 deg. F.  In July-September they experience more of a monsoonal flow where it’s a little more humid but still very hot.  Because of their climate, they had to get creative about how they made hay.  They would have to bale the hay while it still had a little bit of stem moisture, because if they waited for the hay to completely cure, it was disaster.  Of course, at the time they were running small balers, which can leach out moisture better than large bales.  Once they moved to large balers, the risk of fire was to great to bale with stem moisture.  Once again, they had to get creative.

Water Trucks

The Bracken’s were having such a hard time getting dew that Howard had to take things into his own hands.  They purchased two water trucks and started spraying water on the hay prior to baling.  Howard is the first to admit that it wasn’t perfect, but it was all that they had to work with.  This required two extra operators and more equipment, but it was better than the alternative of bone dry hay that would surely shatter during the baling process.

water truck spraying hay

The 72-Hour Challenge

For years the Bracken’s continued to spray the hay with water prior to baling.  They had started a trend in the valley, because other farmers soon followed and were spraying water on their hay as well.  It was the summer of 2013 that farming in Enterprise would forever be changed.

Dave Staheli, owner of Staheli West, grew up in Enterprise, Utah and knew the potential that enterprise could be for the DewPoint hay steamer.  Knowing many of the local farmer’s, Dave along with his crew set-up what would be called the Staheli West 72-hour challenge.  Click here to watch the 72-hour challenge.  The task of the challenge was to bale quality hay for 72-hours straight with one tractor, one baler, and one DewPoint steamer with a goal of 4,500 bales.  Many were skeptical of the idea and didn’t think that it could be accomplished, but Staheli West not only exceeded their goal of 4,500 bales, but they exceeded everyone’s expectations as well.  Howard Bracken states, “That was the tipping point that probably changed our minds more than anything about the steamer.” Kirby Bracken explains, “They were baling dairy-quality hay in the middle of the day.”

Now, Staheli West not only enjoys their relationship with the Bracken’s but many of the other farmers in the Enterprise valley who have now adopted the DewPoint technology.