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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.”