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News and information from UC Cooperative Extension about alfalfa and forage production.
Tractor & Hay bales
by Bill Wilson
on April 30, 2013 at 11:27 AM
This may be presumptuous suggesting the principles for baling hay but here goes anyway.  
The Universal truth for hay baling in the West Virginia publication are really universal but in the arid west the application is different.  
In short with the humidity down next to the hay is 90% the hay moisture will be no lower than 40%.  
(This is assuming the humidity is falling not increasing)  
Humidity at 70% the hay moisture is no lower than 18% to 20%  
Humidity at 65% the hay moisture is no lower than 16% to 18%  
These work here, in Central Texas, most of the time.  
There have been times when there would not be enough humidity to rake. Had to rake following the mowing.  
In 2011 there were weeks where there would not have been enough humidity to bale, day or night. "Fortunately" there was no hay to bale during those weeks. (HERE)  
If the hay is stem snapping dry before the dew sets in, the hay will be safe.  
There is a fallacy regarding hay moisture for baling. Hay that is 14% moisture can be too damp to bale.  
If the leaves are 8% moisture, and the stems 22% moisture the leaves will shatter off and the hay will be have enough moisture to mold for sure and possibly heat excessively. The end result can be a bundle of wet stems.  
Here baling as the humidity falls, or there with artificial dew we can bale with dry stems and moist leaves. Safe to bale and little to no leaf loss.  
I like to say I bale with 10% stem moisture and 30% leaf moisture. (Purely guessing!)  
Dan Undersander has a number of appropriate presentations with useful charts to supplement the W V information. You simply need to translate from his humid climate perspective to the arid climate perspective.  
I believe your California Grower who mounted a spray boom on a water truck and sprayed water on the windrow 15 minutes ahead of the baler was on the right track. It should be in your Proceedings Archives maybe 20 years ago.  
Using that Steam Jenny your growers can bale during the day time! Enjoying the heat of the day.  
Bill Wilson  
Texas Hay Grower.
by rose haraughty
on March 22, 2015 at 3:42 PM
a hay bale fire was started at my house here in Oswego Kansas nobody knows how the fire was started
by Eric Gutierrez
on November 30, 2017 at 7:19 AM
This is a really good informative article. About a year a so a go a few miles north of us, about 500,000 acres were burned up and 4 people died. It also is an unsolved mystery, though some are more skeptical thank others and can't seem to think that spontaneous combustion is feasible. I think anything is possible, however with better preparation and information as stated in this article, I'm sure that the probability of a fire on your farm can be minimized. We have been utilizing the air gap techniques for a while now, just in case...Thanks for all of the other tidbits on moisture and such...we will be sure to try to implement these more.
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