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”.

 

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