You've never seen anything like this new bale dryer that lets you dry up to 32 round bales or 24 big square bales at a time. It was introduced at the recent National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky.
"It lets you bale hay earlier, at moisture contents up to 40 percent. As a result, 90 percent of the leaves are saved which greatly increases the protein level," says distributor David Eftink, Double D Tractor Parts, Sikeston, Mo.
The company imports the hay dryer from Italy, where it has been used for about 10 years. The Italian inventor recently received worldwide patents so he has started marketing it overseas.
The hay dryer consists of a 32-ft. long structure made from galvanized steel and is designed to dry two layers of bales at a time. Up to three modules can be connected together.
Bales are placed in a single layer across each of two floors, which have tunnels inside them with inset ducts. There's a third tunnel system at the top. A large fan powered by a diesel engine or 3-phase electric power is housed inside a metal shed at one end of the unit. The fan blows heated air through the bottom floor to three flexible poly tubes at the opposite end that carry the hot air up to the second floor, which is divided into an upper and lower tunnel. A single flexible tube delivers air to the tunnel system at the top.
All bales are dried from both the top and bottom at the same time.
To load and unload bales, the entire top floor drops down hydraulically to within 4 ft. of the ground. Once the top floor is loaded, it's raised to make room for loading bales onto the bottom floor.
Once all the bales are loaded, the operator squeezes the top floor down against the bales to create a tight seal.
"Six months after you've baled the hay it will still be as green as the day you cut it," says Eftink. "Once you dry hay down to 12 percent moisture there's hardly any chance for mold or bacteria to form. Hay cured this way has almost 40 percent more protein which results in better animal health and production. Dairy farmers can usually expect up to a 10 percent increase in milk production.
"Another advantage of baling high moisture hay is that you can sometimes get an extra cutting of alfalfa."
The burner raises the air temperature inside the tunnels to about 100 degrees.
"It takes about eight hours to bring it from 40 percent moisture down to 12 percent," says Eftink.
The dryer will be demonstrated for the first time this spring in Ohio and Michigan. The 32-ft. module can handle eight big square bales or twelve 4-ft. wide round bales or six large round bales.