Re-conditioners help forage growers get the most from their crops
FARGO, N.D. — Some hay farmers count the days between cutting and baling. Serious forage producers, such as dairy farmers, count the hours.
A grower who bales 48 hours sooner stands to gain $67 per ton, or $17.50 per acre, on hay quality, says Dan Undersander of Wisconsin State University, a frequent speaker at Manitoba Forage Days.
Undersander’s studies have found that dry matter weight drops by two to three percent for every day a swath lays respiring in the field at higher than 35 percent moisture.
Re-conditioning is the best option farmers have for protecting the quality of a hay crop before it is baled and put up in a shelter.
Calculating high-end hay at $200 per ton and 1.75 ton per acre results in a single cut being worth $350 per acre. A 2.5 percent drop in the value of dry matter amounts to $8.75 per acre for a single day or $17.50 per acre for two days.
Using these calculations, the price of a re-conditioner can be recovered by rescuing a hay cut from just one rainfall.
Ag Shield recently raised the bar on re-conditioners with the introduction of its ReCon 400, said company owner Tom McCrea.
“We’ve taken the ReCon 300 technology and adapted it to a three point hitch platform,” said McCrea while explaining that the new ReCon 400 retains the 300 model’s ability to cut drying time by 30 to 65 percent.
“Both machines crush the stems extensively,” he said.
“We crush one inch, then leave one inch. Crush one inch, then leave one inch. Over and over. Moisture never has more than a half inch to go to exit a non-crushed portion of the stem.”
McCrea said alfalfa has less leaf loss because the stems dry nearly as fast as the leaves. Cows quickly take to coarse baled crops such as corn stover because they like the way the stems are split full length.
“Uniform drying prevents hot spots in larger bales, minimizing reject bales and barn fires,” McCrea said.
He said a big drawback of conventional mower conditioners is that their swaths often collapse after five hours. The collapsed spots are more dense and do not dry as well.
“Our ReCon 400 re-fluffs the swaths to promote airflow. The thoroughly conditioned stems move moisture out to the open air quickly.”
McCrea said the largest single complaint he heard from growers who bought a ReCon 300 was that it required one extra pass over the field with the rake to consolidate windrows for large balers. The extra pass wastes time and fuel.
The arms that re-shape the swath can hydraulically swing 20 degrees left or right in small increments, giving the operator a number of options to relay the windrow for maximum drying in minimum time. The adjustments can be made on-the-go from the cab.
“The 400 does the same job as the 300 but does it more efficiently in the field,” he said.
“It takes two 18-foot swaths and brings them into a single 36 -foot swath for your baler. We’ve eliminated that annoying pass with your rake.
He said the ReCon 400 can also move cut hay to dry ground adjacent to the original swath.
“The ground below the cutting swath remains damp because the windrow protects it from sun and breezes,” he said.
“So I go out the day after cutting and use my ReCon 400 to re-condition the hay and move it over to dry ground. We fluff it up so it has plenty of air movement. And, depending on how our operation is organized, we might combine two windrows into a single large windrow. Or maybe not.”
McCrea said faster drying time and a shorter time gap between cutting and baling are just the obvious benefits of using a re-conditioner.
Softer forage that’s gone through re-conditioning is also more palatable, he added.
The farmer can also make tighter bales when harvesting coarser forage, which results in heavier bales and fewer of them. That equates to less wrap or twine as well as less hauling.
“Swath inversion is a problem associated with the side deflectors on more conventional re-conditioning machines,” said McCrea.
“We have a small amount of inversion with the ReCon 400. The 400 does have the same side deflectors as we put on the 300, but they aren’t used nearly as much on the 400.”
Mounting the rig on a three point hitch platform creates advantages, the most obvious being manoeuvrability.
The reality is that the best fields are typically dedicated for cereals, corn and canola. Hay is grown in the little odd-shaped, leftover pieces of ground.
The three point hitch lets the operator get into those little triangular corner fields to extract the most value from the field.
McCrea said the three point hitch also works well in irrigated hay fields. It lets the producer make better use of his big, high horsepower field tractor, which easily carries the weight of the ReCon 400. Plus, the large tractor carries the re-conditioner across irrigation ruts without damaging it.
Seven feet was the most popular size in the previous ReCon 300 model, but the new ReCon 400 model is manufactured only with a nine foot, three inch head.
However, the number is deceiving because the head ends up only slightly wider than the ReCon 300 when it is turned to the full 20 degree angle left or right.
The Ag Shield ReCon 400 is priced at $27,000.
For more information, contact McCrea at 204-539-2000 #100 or visit www.agshield.com.