Tips for baling in high-moisture situations

Forages: News Roundup from the May 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Sommerfeld has modified an 855 New Holland round baler to lift hay swaths and speed drying.

In the last issue, we outlined Ryan Sommerfeld’s methods for deciding when to cut hay to minimize rain damage. Sommerfeld is a cattle producer based near Medstead, Sask. Now we turn to Sommerfeld’s methods for cutting, raking and baling.

Sommerfeld prefers cutting with a 13.5-foot discbine, which allows him to cut at about six miles per hour. Rather than travelling back and forth across the field, he cuts in circles. He takes shortcuts at the corners, leaving 26-foot wide wedges, which he cleans up when he reaches the centre.

Sommerfeld uses a V-rake that can widen out easily at the back. This way he can simultaneously single-turn two 13-foot swaths into one eight-foot swath. Minimal turning means more leaf retention, he adds.

Sommerfeld has also modified an 855 New Holland round baler to lift the swaths, which they use on about 500 acres a year.

“If we get an inch of rain the next day I go out and hit it right away with that,” he says. The lifter speeds drying and Sommerfeld says he can easily gain a day using it.

Sommerfeld modified the baler by removing the end gate and bars. He re-sprocketed the machine so the pickup was 1.5 times faster and the start roller five times faster. Welded cleats on the start roller throw the hay and a plate at the back ensures the hay clears the axles. Sommerfeld also installed plastic on each side of the pickup to improve how it feeds.

Sommerfeld used the lifter on wheat in November a couple of years ago. He was able to lift it one day and bale it the next, he says.

“And I was baling it at 14 per cent right through the whole baler. There were no hot spots in it. And the stuff that wasn’t lifted up was 30.”

Sommerfeld also uses inoculants. He moisture tests hay three times and takes the average. Although the inoculant label states it can be used at up to 25 per cent moisture, he usually cuts it off at 23 per cent.

“The odd time I’ll go up to a 25 average in the bale but I don’t like to because I have seen some mould and some must come in when you get up that high.” At 23 per cent, he gets bales with uniform quality, he adds.

Sommerfeld likes the inoculant applicators with four tubes. He runs the tubes down the front of the baler, attaching them to the wind fingers. He has a secondary tube on the end, so he can adjust for crop thickness.

The goal is to have the crop graze the tube’s end, pushing inoculant right into the swath. You don’t want the application affected by the wind, Sommerfeld says, because a windy day is “your biggest enemy with that light powder.”

Sommerfeld also ties an extra twine onto the existing twine on each side of the baler from the twine box, using a square knot. Using the lowest tie settings, it increases the speed by 20 seconds per bale, he says.

Sommerfeld also seeds CDC S0-1 oats, which he plans to bale as a fully mature crop as part of the winter feeding plan. Sommerfeld says that decision is based on Dr. Greg Penner’s research showing that delaying cutting cereals for dry forage improves cow grazing days. Sommerfeld adapted those findings to baling the S0-1 oats. It’s also easier to get the oats dry in the fall than as greenfeed, he adds.

S0-1 is digestible without being rolled, he says, and the cows enjoy eating the straw. They’ve also noticed that S0-1 oats is extremely hard-thrashing.

Last issue noted that Sommerfeld used a weather systems map from The Weather Network showing the jet stream and pressure systems to time cutting hay. The Weather Network has discontinued that map, however. One possible replacement is Navigate to Forecast>CMC-GDPS, then click on the panel’s link in the “classic” row. Producers can also find jet stream forecasts at

Producers can find Ryan Sommerfeld on Twitter at @RPSGelbvieh.

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