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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 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.

Managing Bale Temperature

Baling Hay During the Day in High Ambient Temperatures

Baling hay with the DewPoint hay steamer opens up baling windows that no one ever knew were possible.  E.g., Baling hay during the middle of the day on a hot, windy, June day.  Although baling hay without the need for natural dew is convenient, farmers should carefully manage bale temperatures when baling during the day in high ambient temperatures.  In fact, farmers should never allow bale temperatures to exceed 135 deg. F.

Naturally, moisture in the form of steam does add heat to the hay, and bale temperatures can become excessive during high ambient temperatures when a high rate of steam is used to bale hay. When baling with high rates of steam in high ambient temperatures, take regular bale temperature readings to be sure you are baling within a safe temperature range (below 135 deg. F).  When bale temperatures approach 135 deg. F, it’s important to either reduce steam injection rates or wait until a cooler time of day to bale.

What Happens When Bales Become to Hot

When bales are baled too hot (135 deg. F. or above) hay will caramelize, smell like tobacco and turn brown.  Not only does the appearance of the hay decline, but so does the value and digestibility of hay.  In fact, bale heating can cause some of the protein and fibre to become less digestible.

Stacking Hot Hay

Although hay may be baled up to 135 deg. F, hay should not be stacked when bale temperatures exceed 115 deg. F. We suggest allowing the hay to cool before stacking and storage.  Allowing hot bales to sit overnight, will decrease bale temperature, and allow the hay to be stacked and stored.  What if a rain storm is coming and we need to get our hay out of the field? Our next blog post will cover best practices and techniques to stack hay that would otherwise be considered too hot to stack.

Best Time to Bale With Steam

Although baling with steam does allow farmers to bale during the day, we still suggest that you bale during cooler hours of the day and at night if possible.  We will be the first ones to tell you that we have baled over 500 acres in one day and have ran the steamer around the clock in order to get the work done.  We have customers tell us all the time that they were able to beat a rain storm and put up quality hay with the steamer when they otherwise would have been forced to either wait and risk getting rained on or make the decision to bale dry hay in order to beat the storm.  In that sense, the steamer pays for itself over and over again.  However, if possible, using the DewPoint hay steamer during the cooler hours of the day and at night will reduce fuel and water consumption, and make an even better quality product.

Staheli West Bale Temperature Probe

Managing bale temperature is very important, especially when using steam to bale hay.  It is so important that we actually send every new machine with our custom bale temperature probe, which provides farmers with a guide to when it’s okay to bale and stack their hay.

Bale Temp Probe