For mixed farmers and other forage producers, determining when windrows of hay are ready to bale can seem a bit more like an art than a science. Of course, there are a variety of moisture testers on the market that can provide some hard and fast data, but using them typically involves choosing spots to gather samples you hope are representative of the overall moisture levels in an entire field. There are a variety of factors, though, that can change conditions from place to place. Spot readings may not tell the whole story in a field, and baling conditions can change in just a few hours.
In February, John Deere announced its solution for farmers who want better and more detailed information about the kind of feed they’re making. It introduced a baler-mounted moisture tester that will provide a continuous readout in the tractor cab, letting the operator know the exact moisture content of hay being fed into the baler as it works through a field.
With Deere’s tester, the operator will get an exact picture of the moisture content in hay swaths. And he or she will immediately see any change in conditions that occur throughout the day. That can be particularly important for those who often work late into the night, or want to avoid baling in very low moisture conditions during hot, dry afternoons.
“The hay moisture tester takes the guesswork out of determining if the hay is too dry or wet to bale,” says Phil Lauer, product manager with John Deere Merchandise. “With moisture sensors mounted on the right and left sides of the bale chamber for greater accuracy, the operator can see an updated moisture reading every three seconds, right from the tractor seat.”
The tester’s cab-mounted readout has a lighted LCD screen and controls, which makes it easy to see when working after dark. Two sensors in the bale chamber feed input to the data screen in the tractor cab, which can provide moisture content readings from eight to more than 30 per cent, depending on the type of baler. The display reads in 0.1 per cent increments. To keep a high level of accuracy, the system can be quickly re-calibrated between bales. And operators can set upper and lower moisture readout limits to tailor the system to particular hay and field conditions.
Deere says the sensors can easily be retrofitted onto any of its small-square or round balers. But if you don’t have a green baler, that’s okay, too. You can install this system in models from the other brands as well.
“The Baler-Mounted Hay Moisture Tester is ideal for large and small hay growers and is a small investment to ensure that their hay crop is baled at the right moisture level for their needs,” adds Lauer.
The moisture tester retails for $408.46, and it’s available through any John Deere dealer. †