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Equipment Hub: Leverage the latest in late cutting

Jim Franceschetti for Progressive Dairy Published on 11 September 2019
Bale moisture monitoring and steering guidance system

One of the top storylines for the 2019 crop season is the weather-related delays that have impacted much of the country.

For dairies and custom harvesters, that means making the requisite preparations for a late forage harvest. A significant part of that formula is leveraging technology to wring maximum value from the forage crop.

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The unseasonably wet and cool weather in the first portion of the growing season took a toll on forage crops and damaged a substantial total of alfalfa acres. The theme continued through the first cutting of alfalfa, putting additional pressure on late-season hay harvest.

Advances in precision farming technology, however, can help maximize yields while alleviating stress on you, your operation and your haymaking equipment. In addition, simple tech additions to new and older models of equipment can help cut down on important harvest-time variables like fuel costs and time. And simple accessory and equipment updates can further help you get the most out of a late harvest.

Make late hay great

It’s important to achieve a proper cut and conditioning of all forage, especially when weather conditions play a factor, so leveraging a moisture sensor can be the single-most important factor influencing the quality of hay and silage.

A baler-mounted moisture sensor will give you accurate measurements that will allow you to maximize the nutritional content of your forage in the field.

Now to make the cutting process as efficient as possible, there are a variety of simple additions your certified precision dealer can help you with, including assisted steering and guidance systems. Even on older models of equipment, these upgrades are much simpler and less costly than previous iterations that required significant disassembly of major operational components.

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Assisted steering and guidance systems have positive impacts on operator comfort and efficiency throughout the cutting process. Besides reducing operator fatigue, automated systems make it easier for less-skilled operators to work the fields, freeing up your time for other work.

A note on equipping older equipment with precision technology: It is highly recommended that you engage with a precision-certified expert. By using a certified dealer to install and support the steering and guidance system, the dealer will have a window into the type of equipment being used, the specific application and the type of land being farmed. They may also be able to recommend additional farm-specific efficiencies to help you achieve additional gains.

Data security is another important factor to consider. Before selecting a system, make sure your service provider is not sharing sensitive, operation-critical data like soil makeup, yields, inputs, etc., that you don’t want becoming public or shared with the equipment/tech supplier.

Achieving the perfect bale

There are a variety of non-digital technology considerations that can also lead to improved late-cut forage quality:

  • Hay preservative – Make sure to use a hay preservative that is maximizing nutritional content and extending the baling window as much as possible.

  • Update or replace cutting parts – A cleaner cut is going to allow hay to dry properly while cutting swaths best for efficient baling.

  • Baler belts – Replacing your baler belt will produce a uniform, high-density bale, maximizing nutritional value.

  • Wrapping and storage – Although you can’t control the weather and the timing of cutting, you can control how you wrap and store your bales. Using a high-quality wrap will keep bales densely packed and protected from the elements, locking in nutritional value.

The addition of precision-assisted steering and guidance technology can pay dividends this season and long into the future by maximizing your time and alleviating the physical toll harvesting can take. Whether you decide to implement high- or low-tech solutions to maximize the value of your forage, it’s important to remember it takes the same amount of time and effort to make a bad bale of hay as it does to produce a great bale of hay. Make sure you’re taking the right steps to protect your investment and control the quality of your forage while maximizing your late cuttings.  end mark

PHOTO: Bale moisture monitoring and steering guidance systems can maximize time and quality in late-season hay production. Photo courtesy of CNH Industrial.

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Jim Franceschetti is a product marketing manager for CNH Industrial Aftermarket Solutions.

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