Hauling, Stacking and Storage of Steam Treated Hay

Hauling and Stacking Steamed Hay 

Baling with steam allows farmers to bale quality hay all hours of the day and night.  Although many farmers still prefer to bale hay during the cooler, nighttime hours, situations may arise where you will bale hay during the day.  Some may even prefer to bale hay during the day instead of at night. The possibilities are endless when it comes to steaming hay.  When baling with steam there are some general baling and stacking guidelines that one should follow.

As a General Rule Please Observe the Following:

  • Hay baled in the evening or at night can be hauled and stacked the next morning.
  • Hay baled in the early morning to mid-morning before high steam rates are used can be hauled and stacked later the same day.
  • Hay baled from mid-morning through the early evening (hotter parts of the day) at high steam rates should not be hauled and stacked until the next morning.

Never Stack Hay that is Above 115° F

When baling in hot, dry conditions during the daytime hours, it’s possible that internal bale temperatures will exceed 115° F.  To avoid discoloration of the hay in the stack, you should not stack hay that is above 115° F inside the bale.  However, it is still okay to continue baling in these temperature ranges. In fact, with steam one can still make very good quality hay during the day and at these temperatures, but you will likely need to let the hay sit overnight before stacking.  Although uncommon, when bale temperatures exceed 135° F, you should not continue baling.  It’s helpful to use a bale temperature probe like the one we offer (see picture below).

Stacking High Temperature Hay When Weather is a Threat

What if there are storms coming and bales of hay must be moved off the field immediately after baling to avoid weather damage, but they are too hot to stack conventionally? You may consider the following procedure:

  • Pick up and haul the bales from the field using your normal method.
  • Do NOT leave bales on a truck, bale mover, etc. for more than the time it takes you to drive a short distance from the field to the stack yard or field side. Long distance hauling or stopping for more than a few minutes may cause bale discoloration.
  • Dump hay in stack location and immediately re-stack the hay in a configuration that allows heat dissipation from all four sides of the bale.
  • Use a telehandler to stack hay in a staggered pattern with 18-24” of space between each bale on each layer.
  • Start the first layer with 18-24” between the sides of each bale.
  • Add each layer with each bale straddling the spaces between the bales in the layer below. This allows heat dissipation through all four sides of each bale.
  • Allow the stack to remain in this configuration for a few days to cool.
  • Re-stack the hay in a tight stack when bales have cooled enough to stack conventionally (below 115° F).

Baling in High Humidity Conditions or with Stem Moisture

Steam is Still Effective in High Humidity Situations

In our last blog post (click HERE to read) we talked about baling with steam in very dry conditions.  This blog covers how to effectively use steam in high humidity conditions where climatic or weather conditions do not allow the hay to become fully dry and cured.

Steam is most effective at softening the crop material when the hay is allowed to fully cure and dry before baling, but even in the driest, most arid parts of the world, most farmers still experience periods of time where achieving complete dry-down of the hay prior to baling is nearly impossible. E.g., In Utah, we experience monsoon seasons in the late summer which make it hard to get fully cured hay. Some parts of the world find it difficult to ever get fully cured hay.  In situations like this, where you may even be forced to bale with stem moisture, steam is still an effective way to retain leaves during the baling process.

Using Preservative Spray With Steam

In high humidity conditions when you are unable to cure the hay completely and stem moisture is present, the use of a hay preservative along with steam treatment to maintain leaves can be effective. Hay producers know that during these conditions the leaves are often still dry and brittle, while the stems still contain moisture.  Steam can be applied at moderate rates to soften and preserve the leaves while hay Preservative can also be added at appropriate rates to meet the requirements of overall moisture level of the hay being baled.

When baling in these high-humidity conditions it is advisable to bale during the daytime hours when the hay is as dry as possible.

Using the Gazeeka Moisture Gauge

The use of the Gazeeka Moisture Gauge is very helpful to ensure your bales are within a tolerable moisture range. The Gazeeka moisture sensor is a non-contact microwave sensor that transmits high frequency electromagnetic waves between two antennae.  The two antennae are mounted on the baler so as to analyse the hay bale as it exits the baler.  These moisture readings are then transmitted to a monitor in the tractor cab.  It’s important that you monitor bale moisture and apply the appropriate amount of recommended preservative. For more information on judging bale moisture with the Gazeeka check out a previous blog by clicking HERE.

Know Your Limits

We do not recommend baling with “Stem Moisture” with or without steam unless:

  • You are using a proven preservative product
  • You have tested the preservative product along with the use of steam, and you know your limits

Increase Your Baling Windows in Wetter Climates

In high-humidity climates many farmers first start to bale in the late morning hours as the dew begins to burn off of the hay, which provides for a small baling window before the hay becomes too dry. Then, as the dew sets back in during the evening hours, farmers again will have a short baling window before the hay becomes too wet to bale.  These conditions make it difficult to not only produce consistent and quality hay but also to be productive with labor and equipment.

With the DewPoint hay steamer, farmers can typically bale during those hours of the day when the hay would otherwise be too dry to bale, which increases baling windows, allowing operators to be more productive.  Many steamer owners are able to reduce tractor and baler fleets because of increased baling windows.  This not only saves you money on capital and maintenance expenditures, but it also allows you to bale consistent and quality hay during those hours of the day when you would normally be shut down.

Baling Hay in Very Dry Conditions

Baling in Very Dry and Adverse Conditions

Baling in very dry conditions can be a result of a variety of different weather factors. Here are some of the factors that could lead you to bale in very dry conditions:

    • High ambient temperatures
    • Wind
    • Very low humidity when the windrows are dry
    • Impending storms or other threatening weather events

When baling in very dry conditions, there are several things that you should keep in mind.  One thing that you should watch are your bale temperatures.  It’s important that you keep your internal bale temperatures below 135 °F in order to avoid damaging the hay in the bale.  In the video, Dave is baling in the middle of the day with temperatures around 100 °F.  The high ambient temperatures aren’t ideal, but the bales are still very nice looking bales.  In these very dry conditions, we want to make sure that our bale temperatures are still in the safe zone of under 135 °F, so Dave uses a probe to measure the bale temperature.  Please note that it is important to let the probe sit inside the bale for a few minutes.  Dave determines that the bale temperature is 121 °F and that it is safe to continue baling. For more on managing bale temperature while baling with steam check out this blog post.

Another thing to keep in mind is the stacking of hay that is baled in hot, very-dry conditions.  To avoid discoloration of the hay in the stack you should not stack hay that is above 115° F inside the bale. That means that you may have to let the hay sit overnight before hauling and stacking the hay when baling in hot, dry conditions.

Baling in Cooler Parts of the Day

Generally, in a 24-hour period, operators will try and bale during the cooler hours of the day and at night.  Where possible, many operators like to bale sometime between 7:00 pm in the evening after the air starts to cool, and noon the next day, before the afternoon sun, temperatures, and winds combine to create more adverse conditions.  Here are some of the benefits that you will see when baling in the cooler parts of the day and at night:

  • Better efficiency with your steam by using less water and fuel
  • Bale temperatures will be lower and you will usually be able to haul and stack right away
  • Although you can produce very good looking bales in the day, bales at night tend to look better.

Steam Valve Adjustments in Hot, Dry, and Windy Conditions

When baling in hot, dry, and windy conditions, we’ve found that one particular valve setting allows us to produce better quality and better looking bales.  It’s the same valve setting that Dave is using in the video. As described in a previous blog, there are four manifolds attached to the baler as shown in the pictures below. We can control the steam rate of each of these manifolds independently from each other.

 

When baling in hot, dry, and windy conditions, it’s best to set the master steam rate near 100%. Then, turn the top front and bottom front steam manifolds down to 70-75%, and leave the top and bottom rear manifolds set at 100% open. See picture below. This will provide enough steam to retain leaves at the pickup while allowing more steam to be distributed to the top and bottom rear manifolds, where the moisture will hold better as the hay is being pulled into the flake chamber. This will improve bale quality in these adverse conditions. For more information on valve settings in different scenarios please visit this blog post.

Increasing the Boiler Steam Pressure

When dealing with hot, dry, and windy conditions, there may be occasions when you just need to get more moisture (steam) into the hay.  In the video, Dave is applying the max amount of steam and is seeing bale moisture levels around 12%.  His bale temperatures are looking fine, so he decides that he’d like to get a little bit more moisture in the hay..  To do this, he raises the operating steam pressure from 12% to the max operating pressure of 13%.  By performing this simple trick, he was able to raise bale moisture levels from 12% to 13%.

You must monitor bale temperature closely when increasing steam pressure because the more steam you apply to the hay, the warmer the bale will get.  Remember, bale temperatures should never go above 135 °F.

A Final Word

Although baling at night and during cooler hours of the day is ideal, there may be times when you will need to bale in adverse daytime conditions because of impending rainstorms or other threatening weather events. When you do have to bale during very dry and/or windy conditions you can still make good hay with acceptable bale moisture.

Monitoring Bale Moisture While Baling with the DewPoint Hay Steamer

Monitor Bale Moisture

With the DewPoint hay steamer, it’s possible to make consistent bales across a wide variety of windrow and weather conditions.  In this video and blog, we will discuss how to monitor bale moisture during baling, and how to adjust steam rates to reach your optimal moisture level.

The Gazeeka Moisture Sensor

In the video you will notice a small green control box above the steamer monitor.   That’s the monitor for the Gazeeka moisture sensor.  Most of our customer will either purchase a Gazeeka moisture sensor or some other kind of moisture sensor.  The Gazeeka moisture sensor is a non-contact microwave sensor that transmits high frequency electromagnetic waves between two antennae.  The two antennae are mounted on the baler so as to analyse the hay bale as it exits the baler.  The display unit in the cab provides moisture readings every few seconds.  We use these moisture readings to adjust how much steam we apply to the hay.

 

Adjusting Steam Rates for Desired Moisture Levels

We know that desired moisture levels vary from state to state.  In dryer, more arid states, operators aim for bale moisture content between 12-15%.  In wetter, more humid climates, bale moisture content will be higher, and preservative spray will often be used in conjunction with the DewPoint hay steamer.  In wetter climates, steam is still effective at maintaining leaves during baling.

Because the Gazeeka moisture sensor measures the bales as they are ejected from the baler, moisture readings will be 2 bales behind.  So, when making steam adjustments, it’s important to slowly increase steam rates.  Also, it’s important to remember that your steam rate changes will take 2 bales to show on the Gazeeka display unit in the cab.  In the video, Dave makes several small steam rate adjustments, but he makes sure to wait a few bales between each rate increase until he reaches his optimal moisture level.

Start on the Dry Side

When first starting to bale, it’s important to start off at a lower steam rate until the Gazeeka can provide you an accurate moisture reading.  Then, once you know your starting moisture level, you will be able to gauge how much you need to increase your steam rate.  It’s always better to bale the first few bales too dry than too wet.  If you want to read our blog about how to start baling with the DewPoint hay steamer click here.,

Increase Baling Speed by Using Steam

Field Speed While Baling Hay With the DewPoint Hay Steamer

There are many benefits that come from using steam during baling, but there’s one particular benefit that sometimes gets forgotten – the impact that steam has on your baling speed. Here are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to field speed and the DewPoint steamer.

  • Using the DewPoint hay steamer can actually increase field speeds by 15-25% higher than conventional baling. That’s because the crop is softened by the steam which allows not only more crop to be packed into each each flake, but also to pack easier into each flake.
  • Conventional bale flake counts of 40 flakes/bale can typically be reduced to around 30-35 flakes/bale when using steam while maintaining excellent bale conformation and higher bale density.
  • Steam is more effective when the baler is fed to full or nearly full capacity with the stuffer cycling on every plunger stroke.
  • Load settings can be decreased by 5-10% while still achieving higher bale density.

Increasing field speeds will make your operation more efficient while increasing the quality of your hay product.

Feed the Baler to Full Capacity for Better Steam Results

Not only does increasing your field speed make you more efficient, but it will also allow the steam to be more effective.  When the hay is coming across the pickup and into the packer chamber at a full capacity rate, the steam is entrapped in the hay more efficiently than if you are baling too slow.  Much more steam is lost to the atmosphere when you are not feeding the baler to full or nearly full capacity.  Ideally field speed should be as fast as necessary to feed the baler to full or nearly full capacity with the stuffer cycling on every plunger stroke.

We understand that thin crop yields and/or rough field conditions may limit field speed and lower steam efficiency.  This underlines the importance of thorough seedbed preparation to provide a firm, smooth, field surface for the entire crop cycle.  Proper seedbed preparation pays good dividends over the life of an alfalfa stand by reducing wear and tear on equipment and operators, allowing higher field speeds with higher tons/hour baler capacities, and reducing crop loss associated with rough field surfaces.

Baler Load Settings

We have found that farmers using steam while baling can also lower baler load settings and still achieve a higher bale density.  For example, Dave, in the video, is running with a load setting of 255 in the middle of the afternoon and is putting 30-32 flakes per bale.  He states, “We’d probably be running about 270 if we were working in natural dew to get the same density in the bales that we are getting here today.”

Adjusting Steam Valves When Baling Hay

Important Tips for Proper Steam Valve Adjustment in Various Conditions

The DewPoint 6210 has four different steam valves that correspond to four different steam manifolds on the baler – 1 bottom front manifold, 1 bottom rear manifold, 1 top front manifold, and 1 top rear manifold.  See picture below.  The operator can control each of these steam manifolds individually for complete control in a variety of weather conditions.  Being able to adjust where the steam is applied to the windrow, allows farmers to make hay that has consistent leaf retention and moisture content all the way through the bale.

 

General principles for Using Proportional Valve Controls

  • The first principle to remember is to set the valves where you want more stream applied to the fully open position.
  • The second is to set the valves where you want less steam applied to a lower position as needed according to the conditions you are operating in.
  • The third principle is to use the master steam slider to control the overall steam rate to achieve the desired moisture level in your bales.

Now let’s discuss some common scenarios that you could face when operating the DewPoint hay steamer, and how you would adjust your valves for optimal leaf retention and bale quality.

Scenario 1

In this scenario you are baling into the evening as natural dew is beginning to set into the top of the windrow but the bottom of the windrow is still dry. The following valve adjustments are recommended:

  • Set the Bottom Front and Bottom Rear Valves to fully open
  • Set the Top Front and Top Rear Valves somewhat lower, perhaps between ½ and ¾ open depending on the amount of natural dew coming into the top of the windrow.
  • Use the Master Steam Rate Slider to control the overall steam rate to achieve the desired moisture level in your bales.
  • As the natural dew continues to increase in the top of the windrow you can lower the setting on the Top Front and Top Rear Valves as needed, and continue to use the Master Steam Rate Slider to control the overall steam rate to achieve the desired moisture level in your bales.

This is what the touch screen in the tractor cab would look like for Scenario 1.

Scenario 2

In this scenario you are baling in the morning as natural dew is moving out of the top of the windrow but the bottom of the windrow is still moist from natural dew.

  • Set the Top Front and Top Rear Valves to fully open
  • Set the Bottom Front and Bottom Rear Valves somewhat lower, perhaps between ½ and ¾ open depending on the amount of natural dew remaining in the bottom of the windrow.
  • Use the Master Steam Rate Slider to control the overall steam rate to achieve the desired moisture level in your bales.
  • As the natural dew continues to decrease in the bottom of the windrow you can raise the setting on the Bottom Front and Bottom Rear Valves as needed, and continue to use the Master Steam Rate Slider to control the overall steam rate to achieve the desired moisture level in your bales.

This is what the touch screen in the tractor cab would look like for Scenario 2.

Scenario 3

In this scenario you are baling in the daytime with no natural dew. The hay is dry but the daytime temperature is less than 90 deg. F and winds are calm.

  • Set All Valves to fully open.
  • Use the Master Steam Rate Slider to control the overall steam rate to achieve the desired moisture level in your bales.

This is what the touch screen in the tractor cab would look like for Scenario 3.

Scenario 4

In this scenario you are baling in the afternoon with no natural dew and the windrow is “bone dry”.  The wind is blowing at 10-20 mph and the temperature is near 100 deg. F.  These are less than ideal baling conditions but you need to continue baling because of an approaching storm system or to keep up with your baling schedule.

  • Set the Top Rear and Bottom Rear Valves to fully open. 
  • Set the Top Front and Bottom Front Valves to about ¾ open.
  • Use the Master Steam Rate Slider to control the overall steam rate to achieve the desired moisture level in your bales.
  • In these more adverse baling conditions you can run the Master Steam rate up as high as is needed, even up to 100% if necessary to reach a good bale moisture level.  Remember in these conditions it is best to run the Top Front and Bottom Front Valves at a lower rate because you will still get good leaf retention at the baler pickup. The Top Rear and Bottom Rear Valves will apply the majority of the steam to the windrow as it passes through the Packer area of the Baler and this moisture will stay in the hay as it passes through the Stuffer and into the Bale Chamber.  This method will allow you to make good hay in more adverse conditions when it is necessary.

Remember that when you are baling in high temperatures and using high steam rates you should monitor your bale temperature using a suitable bale temperature probe to be sure your internal bale temperature does not exceed 135 deg. F.  Any temperature probe must remain in the bale for a few minutes to obtain an accurate bale temperature reading. Click HERE to read our blog about managing bale temperature.

This is what the touch screen in the tractor cab would look like for Scenario 3.

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.

Start Baling

First, Determine the Condition of the Windrow

In the last blog post, we talked about what to do when you first arrive in the field to bale hay.  Before baling hay one should determine the condition of the windrow.  This means that farmers should make sure that their hay is fully cured, and determine if there is any moisture or dew in the windrow.  Often, there is either natural dew on the top of the windrow, or settled into the bottom of the windrow.  This is important to know where the dew in the windrow is, so that we know where to apply the steam in order to make a consistent bale from top to bottom.

In the video, Dave determines that the hay is fully cured, meaning that there are no green stems or stem moisture in the cured hay.  He also determines that the top of the windrow is bone dry, but that there is a little natural dew in the bottom of the windrow.  He uses this information to apply steam to the hay when he starts baling.

Adjusting Steam Rates

Capture  Drawing of Steam Manifolds  Steam Coming Out of Baler

Knowing where the moisture or dew is in the windrow is important, because with the DewPoint hay steamer, we can control where we apply the steam.  Typically, there are four different steam manifolds mounted in the baler.  The bottom front manifold is fastened under the pickup and steams the bottom of the hay before the baler picks it up.  The top front manifold typically sits on the wind-guard and steams the top of the hay as the hay is picked up.  Two more manifolds, as shown in the graphic above, steam the top and bottom of the windrow as it passes through the feed chamber.  This combination of manifolds allows operators to make a consistent, quality product across a wide variety of weather and natural dew conditions. Using steam has been proven to reduce leaf loss by 58% compared to good, natural dew.

In the video, Dave will start baling with both the top front and top rear manifolds at 100%, while both bottom manifolds are started at 60%.  This is due to the moisture that is in the bottom of the windrow.  The master steam slider, controls all four valves proportionally.  Dave will set the master steam rate at 60% to start out.  We will keep it here until the Gazeeka moisture sensor reads the moisture in the bales as they come out the bale chute.

Starting to Bale

When you first start baling, it’s important to bale the first 4-5 bales with a lower steam rate.  In the video, Dave starts with his master steam rate at 60%.  He will maintain that steam level until he bales 4-5 bales, which will give him a feel for how much steam he should apply to the hay.  Starting with a lower steam rate also ensures that we don’t make the hay too wet.  Baling a few bales dry is better than baling a few bales too wet.  Once the Gazeeka moisture sensor reads the moisture of the first 4-5 bales we can adjust our steam accordingly.  Often, we will need to increase our steam rate incrementally until we reach our desired moisture level.  In Utah, our optimal bale moisture should be between 12-15%.

Maintaining Operating Pressure

The DewPoint machines are designed and programmed in a way that maintains boiler steam pressure automatically, without any input from the operator.  Once the machine is put in field mode, all the operator must do is adjust the steam rates according to the Gazeeka moisture readings.  The boiler is programmed to maintain an operating pressure of around 12 PSI.  Depending on the steam rate, the DewPoint machine will either turn off or turn on the burner automatically or release excess pressure through the steam purge valve in order to maintain a constant steam pressure.

What’s Next

Now that we know how to properly start baling with the DewPoint hay steamer, our next blog will cover some best practices when it comes to applying steam to the hay.  We will cover the different valve adjustments that you have available to you as you encounter different dew conditions.

When You Arrive at the Field

Check the Windrow Before Baling

When you first arrive at the field to bale, you should understand the moisture characteristics of the windrow.  If your hay is fully cured and has some natural dew, be sure to understand where the dew in the windrow is, or if you are baling with stem moisture, make sure you understand that as well.

Checking the hay in the windrow in several different locations with a moisture probe is a good technique for determining how much moisture is in the windrow.  Sometimes, there can be more moisture in the bottom or top of the windrow and in different locations in the field.  Knowing where the moisture is at in the windrow is important because with the DewPoint 6210, an operator can add more moisture in the form of steam to either the top or bottom of the windrow as the hay is picked up by the baler. So, in the case of the video, there is still natural dew in the bottom of the windrow, but the dew on top has burned off.  Dave will know to add more steam to the top of windrow and less steam to the bottom in order to make a consistent bale all the way through.

Probe Moisture in Windrow Snip

Other Techniques for Checking Hay

Besides using a moisture probe, there are other techniques that you can use to determine if your hay is fully cured, or if there is stem moisture present.  One method is the twisting method. You take a handful of dry hay from the windrow and give it a strong twist.  If it breaks easily within the first 1-2 twists, it is likely that the hay is fully cured.  Stems that are fully dry should break apart easily when you twist the hay.

To check for stem moisture in the hay, take your thumb and try to peel off the skin of the alfalfa stem.  If you peel off the skin of the stem and discover a green stem underneath, then you likely have stem moisture.  If you can’t peel off the skin of the stem, then it likely means that you don’t have stem moisture and the hay is fully cured.

Baling with steam is much more effective when the hay is fulled cured.  Fully cured hay allows hay to absorb the steam and become soft and pliable.  We don’t recommend baling with stem moisture when using steam.

Twising hay for checking windrow

DewPoint 6210 Startup in the Field

Once you determine that your hay is fully cured, and you know the condition of the hay in the windrow, it’s time to jump in the cab and start baling.   In the video, we have determined that the hay is pretty dry, but the bottom of the windrow still has dew in it, so Dave adds more steam to the top of the windrow.  We like to start with the steam rate a little low until we run a few bales through the baler.  This allows the Gazeeka moisture sensor, which is mounted on the back of the baler, to pick up a moisture reading across the entire width of the bale.  Once you receive the moisture readings from the Gazeeka, you will know exactly how much steam to add to the hay.  In the video, we start our master steam rate at 60%, and we will slowly increase that until we receive moisture readings between 12-15%.

Gazeeka 1    Gazzeka monitor snip

What’s Next

Now that we’ve discussed what to do when you first arrive in the field, and we have determined the condition of our hay prior to baling, our next newsletter will cover the actual field operation of the DewPoint 6210 and how to set the steam rates on the different top and bottom steam manifolds located on the baler.  Stay tuned!