Adjust Hay Conditioner for Maximum Drying

Adjust Hay Conditioner for Maximum Drying

March 6, 2009

Take advantage of this preplanting period to fine-tune your hay conditioner to get the best performance when you need it.

Getting alfalfa hay to dry rapidly is one of the biggest challenges to hay making. The waxy outer layer of alfalfa stems greatly reduces the rate at which moisture can escape.

Equipment manufacturers have developed conditioning rollers that should crack or split plant stems so they dry faster. Recent developments in intensive-conditioning systems operate with near zero clearances so the entire length of stem is crushed. Researchers in several states have shown that these intensive systems allow the hay to reach baling moisture a few hours sooner than conventional rollers.

Rollers are designed to turn at different speeds, which causes wear, noise, and vibration if sufficient clearance is not maintained. Conventional rollers can be adjusted so that the roll clearance is at the lower end of the manufacturer's recommended range. Typically, this clearance is one-sixteenth of an inch. When adjusted this close, conventional rollers help speed hay dry down almost as much as the new intensive systems, and at a much lower cost.

If you haven't checked and adjusted your conditioning rollers for a couple years, do it now before spring field work begins in earnest. Your hay will dry faster and your risk of rain damage will decrease.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist