Cut hay drying in the sun in long windrows

4 Factors That Speed Up or Slow Down Dry-Down Time for Hay

July 27, 2022

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Despite the fact that the conventional methods of drying hay haven’t altered in a decade, weather patterns are changing more each year, and they are not for the better.

After springs of excessive rain and storms continue to raise the potential for flooding and sodden soil conditions, it’s time to reassess the drying strategies and practices.

Dry-down time for hay depends on several factors. During the haying season, consider these factors to determine the time your grass/forage takes to dry. High-quality forage is an essential requirement for improving dairy production for your cattle.

Different harvests have radically different dry times and quality metrics. Aside from using equipment from B&D Rollers that promotes quality harvest, there are also environmental factors that will determine the hay quality, that includes:

  • Soil fertility
  • Maturity at harvest
  • The plant’s nutritious status
  • Season of the year
  • Moisture during the growing season

Considering the current climate, maintaining optimal drying conditions is vital and challenging. It is pretty difficult to forecast the number of periods without rainfall.

Below are factors that can speed up or slow down dry-time for hay.

Weather

Weather is the most vital factor in hay drying. You can enhance your drying time by leveraging different weather aspects. The primary weather considerations include:

  • Sunlight
  • Rainfall
  • Humidity
  • Climate and environmental conditions

Sunlight

Sunlight is the most influential element in enhancing the drying rates for hay. Solar radiation evaporates and eliminates moisture from the hay. Free sunlight energy eases the drying process. You can control how much sunlight you receive as you cut grass during sunny weather.

You can expose the cut forage to the sun by widening the windrows. Wide windrows increase exposure to maximum forage surface area.

Drying is generally affected by the plants’ structure, soil, swath structure, and weather. Laying a yield crop in broad swaths improves the drying rate as moisture can’t penetrate. Conditioning the produce under the sun enhances the drying times as water will leave the cut forage quickly.

Using a tedder is also suitable for spreading out and aerating the crop for faster drying. Tedders are effective for grass crops but can lead to loss of leaf legumes if the leaves dry out. If your ground is damp, use tedders to move the crop into narrow windrows and let in sunlight. Once the soil dries up, spread some crops using the tedder.

Rain Damage

Rain damage can slow down the dry time. Rainfall knocks off leaves and leaches the soluble nutrients within the plant tissue. Leaves have higher nutrient concentrations than stems. Loss of leaves minimizes the remaining forage quality.

Avoid rain damage by having it earlier in the drying process instead of when the crop is about to bale. Excessive leaf loss can result in low-quality hay bales. It’s best to avoid rain damage for good drying.

A rainfall before cutting may slow the hay drying rate as the rain keeps the windrow’s bottom moist even on a sunny day. The crop will have high moisture content, but cutting during fair weather just after the rainfall is an ideal approach.

Humidity

Low humidity increases your hay’s dry time. An ideal moment to bale hay is when the air humidity is at least 70%, implying the first light in the morning. For daylight baling, start when humidity is below 70%. As it approaches 50%, hay can be dry enough to shatter leaves.

Climate and Environmental Conditions

If climate allows, you can bale at night. The leaves will toughen before the stems to enhance a fast-drying time. Cloudy hours with wet soil moisture are more extended than sunny hours with dry soil conditions. It is essential to keep this in mind when making dry hay.

Green hay bales mowing to increase hay's drying rate

Desiccants

The desiccants include chemicals used when mowing to increase hay’s drying rate. Effective desiccants contain sodium and potassium carbonates and are helpful for legumes. You can apply the chemicals to improve the drying times for grass.

Research has shown that desiccants work best for hay bales under good drying conditions. The chemical doesn’t work well in situations that are:

  • Cloudy
  • Humid
  • Damp

Always consider the weather conditions before applying the desiccants.

Preservatives

At times rain comes quicker than expected and interrupts the dry time for hay. Use preservatives as a second option. Suitable preservatives contain propionic acid to prevent problems.

The chemicals restrict mold growth and facilitate a safe baling at higher moisture contents than the typical rates. A good drying process requires following the manufacturer’s directions to control the hay moisture content.

Conditioning and Rolling Equipment

A tractor with two rotary mowers mows the grassYour mower-conditioner significantly impacts drying, mowing losses, and cut forage quality. Rotary mowers need higher-powered tractors to operate. A higher mowing capacity affects the conditioning mechanisms and thus influences the drying time.

Mechanical conditioning equipment speeds drying. The treatments occur in flail and roll conditioners. The rolls break, crimp and crush the crop stems while the flail separates the plants’ waxy surfaces and is best used on grass hay. These processes improve the hay drying system.

Impeller conditioners are effective in conditioning grasses. Compared to roll conditioners, they have a higher leaf loss suitable for broadleaf forage plants. A properly adjusted impeller conditioner achieves proper conditioning for many crops.

Do You Want a Fast Hay Drying Process?

Compressing, crushing, and cracking the stem reduces dry-down time. When comparing mower conditioners, you should consider what type of conditioner rolls are in the machine. If they are factory-installed hay rollers, you might want to consider after-market Crusher rolls. Suppose you want to speed up the hay drying process. In that case, The Crusher completely cracks open the stem from top to bottom, so it dries faster and makes a softer, more palatable hay. This process causes a significant decrease in the dry-down time compared to conventional mower conditioners with factory-installed rollers.

At B&D Rollers, we focus on quality compressors to reduce your hay’s drying time. Contact us today and obtain deep insight to benefit your hay drying process.

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