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Testing Hay Moisture


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#1 downtownjr

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 06:20 PM

From my friends at Agratronix...

Why is it important to test hay moisture prior to baling?

Testing the moisture content of hay prior to the baling process is essential to both seller and buyer. Moisture in hay is considered in three different forms, free water, physically trapped water, and bound water. The free and physically trapped water can be evaporated given proper conditions which include solar radiation, relative humidity, and time.

At the time of baling the ideal moisture level is between 18 and 22 percent. Hay baled with higher moisture percentages can foster mold, resulting in loss, and in severe cases, damage as the accompanying heat can cause spontaneous combustion. Due to its importance, testing hay for moisture content is essential to the success for both the buyer and seller.

Prior to the invent of electronic testers, farmers would visually inspect the hay for moisture by picking up and subsequently breaking the stem to examine the moisture level in the stem to determine if it was ready for the baling process. Having the technology of electronic testers allows the farmers to pin point the ideal time for baling resulting in a higher overall yield from their fields. With the introduction of hand-held electronic testers, farmers not only have the benefit of accuracy they also have the benefit of efficiency.

Read the full article here:

http://www.agratroni...ay_Moisture.pdf

Agtratronix meters are available atBale Supply - Welcome
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#2 hay wilson in TX

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:10 PM

Darn I do not like this format.

Consider this if you have stems that are 10% moisture and average is 20% moisture you have enough leaf moisture to keep most of your leaves.

If the leaves are 10% moisture and average is 20% you will shatter off the majority of your leaves and end up with moldy stems.

The leaves dry down a whole lot faster than the stems do, but turned around the stems pick up moisture from the night dew slower than the leaves.

One Universal Truth for hay.

Relative Humidity
90% RH the hay will have no lower than 40% Moisture.
The magic moisture for raking.
70% RH the hay will be no lower than 18 to 20% Moisture
The magic moisture for small square baling.
65% RH the hay will be no lower than 16 to 18% Moisture.
The magic moisture for large bales.
55% RH the hay in the 12% moisture the range where leaf shattering becomes a major concern.

The humidity we are talking about is down close to the hay, not free air humidity, not on TV and not at the Airport.


The devil is in the details and there are a number of details.
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#3 JD3430

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 08:42 PM

I think I asked this before, but if you were a newbie on a budget, how would you proceed? Can you tell me what you'd buy if you only had one instrument to tell you when moisture is correct to bale?

#4 NDVA HAYMAN

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 06:46 PM

I think that Hay Wilson will tell you to look at the humidity tester at Gemplers. It is a great little tool to use for humidity testing , it's simple and fairly cheap but I will let Hay Wilson tell more. He is my guru for baling moisture. Mike

#5 Bob M

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:57 PM

A koster forage tester gives true miosture if done correctly. Most electronic testers are only estimates.

#6 mlappin

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:35 PM

I think I asked this before, but if you were a newbie on a budget, how would you proceed? Can you tell me what you'd buy if you only had one instrument to tell you when moisture is correct to bale?


A microwave oven. Purdue Forage Information

#7 hay wilson in TX

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 05:19 PM

I think I asked this before, but if you were a newbie on a budget, how would you proceed? Can you tell me what you'd buy if you only had one instrument to tell you when moisture is correct to bale?
For 25 years I have used an on the go moisture tester, and would feel lost without it.
I like the Delmhorst Model 6 ( 6-30 ) because I like to bale fully cured hay using the overnight humidity rerehydrate the leaves. I use a C clamp to hold the button in and watch the needle hunt, Most people who apply a preservative look at the stem moisture to adjust the quantity of acid being applied.
Mount the moisture pickup on the side with the knives and you get a good stem moisture reading. It will give a higher than average moisture read out.

Because I try to bale cured hay on night dew or morning dew my moisture pickup is on the opposite side from the knives. This gives a good reading on the leaf moisture. I expect the stems to be bone dry.
It will give a higher than average moisture reading, with my management style.


A Koster forage tester gives true moisture if done correctly. Most electronic testers are only estimates
This is indeed the most accurate moisture tester. Just not timely for a dynamic situation. By the time you know the average moisture of the forage the average will have changed.
Thing is to be accurate you need three of these little gems. One to give the average moisture. Plus one to measure the moisture of all the leaves you can strip off the stems. and the third one to measure the moisture in the stems.

Remember above I mentioned "The leaves dry down a whole lot faster than the stems do, but turned around the stems pick up moisture from the night dew slower than the leaves."

A microwave oven. Purdue Forage Information

This system works also, just not as conveniently portable as the Koster tool.

These are really better for research. Probably need Six ( 6 ) graduate students doing the collecting and measuring to provide the information for a Research Paper. Something to do after I retire at 95?

Another use for one of these slower readout tools is close to sunset take an average moisture reading, & if the hay is way too dry to bale, THEN you can plan to bale with the night humidity, during the night or the next day as the humidity is going down.

Now for the limited budget or to expand your awareness a little tool that measures humidity is the thing.

For about $150 we can have a pocket weather station from Gimplers that also provides wind velocities for when you are spraying. After that tool goes through a washing machine they quit working.
You can look at a less costly alternative and for $40 to $70 buy a tool that is designed to sit on your desk, or hang in the Chicken House. They are easier to read from a distance you can sit it on a board next to the windrow and for the magic humidity.
Above I mentioned, Relative Humidity
90% RH the hay will have no lower than 40% Moisture.
The magic moisture for raking.
70% RH the hay will be no lower than 18 to 20% Moisture
The magic moisture for small square baling.
65% RH the hay will be no lower than 16 to 18% Moisture.
The magic moisture for large bales.
55% RH the hay in the 12% moisture the range where leaf shattering becomes a major concern.


The humidity we are talking about is down close to the hay, not free air humidity, not on TV and not at the Airport.

This works like a champ for me for when to start baling during the day.
When I used to bale at night I could feel the cool dew on my face for one. Plus if it there still is not enough humidity you can see leaves shattering off at the Pick Up. I understand the leave stop shattering as the humidity reaches 60% but it was very dramatic to see the leave STOP Shattering. Here I could go 10 - 20 seconds of baling with way too much leaf shattering to no significant leaf loss. The slip clutch would tell me to get down and take some pressure off the bale chamber.
I like an open tractor so I can hear what the baler is saying.
I can hear when the thing trips to tie a bale.
I can hear the slip clutch start to complain.
I can judge bale length by here in the cycle the bale falls off the bale chute.

It is a snap. Keep an eye on the windrow to keep the hay feeding. Keep an eye on the windrow to anticipate changing the ground speed to keep the baler producing a bale every 15 strokes. 11 Strokes go down a gear, 19 strokes go up a gear.
For a good solid 55 lb bale the bale length should be 34" long. My market wants a 55 lb bale.


That is enough for now. I hope this answers some of you questions. :confused:
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#8 hay wilson in TX

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 08:47 PM

I am afraid I have not told the truth as your friends at Agratronix...would have liked.

I would say that their primary customer base is in a part of this country where the humidity seldom goes below 50% and where it is not unusual to have several days in a row where the humidity never goes below 70%.
HERE the stem moisture does not rehydrate with the dew, but this is not a universal truth. Hay that has been double conditioned, or had the Circle C system, or macerated, the stems give up moisture quicker but they also rehydrate to a higher level.
For hay that essentially has the moisture level for the stems close to the leaf moisture.
The graphs presented by Cornel and Wisconsin are still a factor. If the hay is dropped into a windrow, even super conditioned, the hay will require more total pan evaporation to reach a safe moisture level than if the hay is laid out in a wide swath.
The only thing that super conditioning does not do is increase the flow of moisture through the stoma in the underside of the leaves.
Highly conditioned hay will allow moisture to escape the stems faster. The sun heats the moisture creating an increased vapor pressure. This vapor pressure pushes the "steam" out the nearest opening.
If you are interested in you can send off for the Silage and Hay Preservation By R. E. Pitt NRAES-5 Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service ( NRAES ) 152 Riley Robb Hall Cornell University. It is well worth the money.
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#9 Vol

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 07:43 PM

I bought the newest Agra-tronix in-cab moisture monitor last week(BHT-2). I bought the John Deere version versus the many other versions(NH, Agra, and serveral others) because the JD version came with a 2 year warranty and the NH version only came with a year warranty and they were the same price. I have read some good things about this newest model....newer tech to give better/more accurate readings. Hope to install in my 1839 square baler sometime next week. Break it in on my next alfalfa cuttin here in a couple of weeks. I will give you an unbiased report on how I think this model stacks up on accuracy. Also, I bought one of the humidity pens Haywilson has mentioned here. Pretty interesting....you can even recalibrate it. Appears like it will do the job. Bought off ebay for less than $80 shipping included. More toys for farming boys.

Regards, Mike
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#10 mlappin

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 11:04 PM

One Universal Truth for hay.

Relative Humidity
90% RH the hay will have no lower than 40% Moisture.
The magic moisture for raking.
70% RH the hay will be no lower than 18 to 20% Moisture
The magic moisture for small square baling.
65% RH the hay will be no lower than 16 to 18% Moisture.
The magic moisture for large bales.
55% RH the hay in the 12% moisture the range where leaf shattering becomes a major concern.

The humidity we are talking about is down close to the hay, not free air humidity, not on TV and not at the Airport.




Wilson, could you be more specific? Is "down close to the hay" a few inches, six inches, a foot, or practically laying on the hay?
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#11 hay wilson in TX

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Posted 13 October 2013 - 02:06 PM

Measuring the Humidity Down Close To the Hay.

Most people mount their humidity meter about head high. When I first started looking at the humidity that was what I did. Up at the barn to boot.
I was and am a little slow but I did notice that the humidity could be reading 50% while the grass was still damp with the night dew. Go to the field and the windrow is still damp.
SO I took to servicing the baler at the field, and placed the humidity meter in the shade close to the ground. On a tire rim, Front Loader bucket.
At 70% humidity I would start baling. Take a few bales to get a 55 lb bale that is 34" long, then the on the go moisture tester would be indicating 20% moisture, with the needle swing up to 22% from indicating a damp spot. By half the length of the field the Moisture tester would be in the 18% Moisturee range.

Moisture testers.
I like the electronic moisture, but early on I would test the hay and also run to the house and do a Microwave test.
The trouble with the electronic moisture tester is it does require some operterator skill. The bale a little too loose and it will read low. A little too high and the same hay will read too high.

Now a HERE Thing. I expect to bale hay that the stems were dry around supper time. At that time the leaves are dry, way too dry and will shatter big time. With the evening dew or over night dew the leaves will rehydrate and be limp enough, not to shatter.
Then the next day I start to bale as the humidity is going down. Again that is measured down next near where the hay is. U have placed the meter on a windrow but the sun heating the meter will tilt the result. In side a box laying on it's side keeps the meter out of the and appears to work. I lay it on a wheel rim most of the time.

This is not a do as I say, and there are bound to be better ways than what I do.

The People at West Virginia say Round Bales start at 65% humidity. Now bale shatter will become worse quicker than a small square baler.
The best I can tell a roundbale will test 2% lower protein than a small square bale. A Large In Line baler has the leaves fall into the bale and the protein is retained better.

Something to try is to pull a real plant analsyis sample and have it analyzed, then compare it to the hay sample for a square bale and for a round bale. It will scare you.


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