More from: moisture tester

Tips for Preparing to Install a Hay Storage Building

Throughout most of the spring and summer, we have featured a number of blog posts talking about hay moisture testers and electrified fencing. With the end of summer fast approaching, it is time to get ready for the fall and winter seasons. That means making plans for winter hay storage. One of our temporary hay storage buildings could be the solution you have been looking for.

We sell multiple sizes of storage buildings made with heavy-duty PVC fabric and galvanized steel framing. The advantage of using one of these temporary buildings as opposed to building a new barn is flexibility. Of course, lower costs are a big advantage as well. At any rate, it helps to start making preparations for installation now while the weather is still cooperative.

Carefully Choose Your Site

The first preparation tip is one of choosing your site carefully. The amount of protection your temporary hay storage building offers will be in direct relation to the site you choose. The idea is to choose a site that minimizes the chances of something going wrong. Here are some of the most important considerations:

Power Lines – Falling power lines could cause a lot of problems for your temporary storage building. As such, choose a site that is far enough away from power lines to be unaffected if weather brings them down.

Snow Drifts – You know from experience where snow tends to accumulate on your property. It is best to avoid a location that could encourage snow drifts to accumulate along the sides or on top of the building. Snow on top is especially troubling because it adds weight.

Overhead Threats – Also make sure to choose a site free of overhead threats like large tree branches or ice dams that may fall off a nearby home or barn.

Underground Utilities – Lastly, you will be driving anchors into the ground to hold your temporary storage building in place. Choose a site you know is free from underground cables and pipes. If you are not sure where cables and pipes are located on your property, call your local utilities and ask them to come out and mark locations for you.

Site Preparation

Once you have chosen a good site, you need to prepare it for installation. If the site is not already level, start the preparation process by addressing this. A level site is important so that moisture does not collect at one end of the structure, thereby spoiling some of your crop.

If necessary, dig some trenches to provide a bit of drainage underneath the crop. If you plan to install the building on top of a concrete pad, digging trenches will not be possible. You can accomplish the same thing by stacking your hay on top of pallets. That way, any moisture underneath will be kept away from the hay.

If you need to drill anchor holes, now is the time to do it. Drill your holes and insert anchors into them to keep them from closing back up between now and installation day.

Lastly, clear out debris, equipment, and anything else that might act as a hindrance to installation. Plan on a clear area of 15 to 20 feet around the entire perimeter of the site. You do not want to waste time and effort moving things on the day of installation.

If you are thinking of installing a hay storage building in anticipation of the coming winter, now is the time to start making plans. It is already mid-August. Cold temperatures and snowflakes are just a couple of months away.


Corn Silage and Moisture: Start Planning For a Good Crop

With spring planting now a distant memory, it’s time to start looking forward to harvest. Where corn silage is concerned, that means planning now if you hope to have the best possible crop in a couple of months. It also means paying attention to moisture levels. Like most grains, moisture content is critical to how well corn stores after harvest.

According to Drovers and PennState Extension, moisture content at the time of harvest is “one of the most important factors influencing corn silage quality.” The key is to match moisture content with the type of corn silage utilized. Growers should be using state-of-the-art moisture testers to determine moisture content before storing corn in their silos.

Moisture Content by the Numbers

Different silo configurations call for different moisture levels at silage time. Professors at Penn State say that corn destined for horizontal silos should have a moisture content of 65% to 70%. A tower silo calls for moisture content of between 63% and 68%, while limited-oxygen silos require 55% to 60%. Growers should target 65% moisture content for any corn destined for silo bags.

Why such variations? Because different silo configurations allow for different levels of air movement. Growers ideally want to find that sweet spot between moisture level at the time of harvest and the amount of air the crop will be exposed to during silage. Drier corn is more susceptible to mold and spoilage as a result of trapped air in silage. Excessively moist corn tends to lose some nutritional value thanks to poor fermentation and seeping.

The good news is that moisture testing is easy. It doesn’t take much to pull a handful of grain, put it in a tester, and read the result. Regular testing as harvest approaches keeps the grower fully informed of how his or her crop is doing. Having said that, the experts at Penn State say moisture levels should always be measured with an accurate tester. They recommend against estimating.

When to Silage Corn

PennState Extension recommends first measuring moisture content just as the milkline appears on the crop. The harvest date can then be estimated by applying a standard dry-down rate. A rate of between 0.50 and 0.75 is acceptable under most conditions. But also remember that the result is only an estimate; growers concerned about accuracy can always continue testing until harvest.

Use a Quality Tester

Knowing what we know about testing grain moisture levels, what Drovers and PennState Extension say about corn silage makes perfect sense. We are not experts in corn silage by any means. However, we are experts in moisture testing equipment. We have a full inventory of moisture testers for a variety of needs.

 

We recommend one of our top loading grain testers for your corn prior to silage. If you also grow hay, we have a number of portable rod testers for keeping track of moisture levels in baled hay. Each one of our testers is made to the highest possible standards for many years of reliable service.

We know how important accurate moisture level testing is for the American grower. Crop moisture levels can mean the difference between maximizing a crop and sustaining heavy losses. We obviously don’t want our customers losing significant portions of their crops due to not keeping track of moisture levels.

If you grow corn, now is the time to start thinking about harvest and silage. Remember, different silo configurations call for different moisture levels in harvested corn. If you’re not sure about your own crop, your local cooperative extension can probably help.


Hay Storage Options for the New Season

We are now well into the start of the summer season. That means hay growers around the country are already looking at the first harvest. Now is the time to start thinking about storage options for the 2018 season. How growers store their hay partly determines what kinds of losses they will experience as a result of the forces of nature. As always, moisture is a crucial factor.

We sell a variety of moisture testers that make it easier for growers to achieve that perfect balance that minimizes hay losses. But a moisture tester alone will not do the trick. Growers also need to use a bit of common sense when it comes to storage. Whether hay is stored in the field or brought into a covered area, it has to be protected against both drying out and excessive moisture.

Storing Hay in the Field

The least expensive and labor-intense way to store hay is to leave it in the field as rolled bales. This method is actually pretty common for the first crop of the year. In climates where three crops are grown, the second crop may also be left in the field. Field storage is fast and easy, too.

One of the big dangers of storing in the field is losing too much of the crop to dry matter loss. However, dry matter loss is easily controlled by getting hay up off the ground. Allowing hay to remain in contact with the ground can lead to losses of up to 30% or more under normal circumstances. Fortunately, breaking contact between hay bale and the ground is not difficult. Growers can roll finished bales onto pallets, blocks, or even tarps. Another option is to store hay on a layer of gravel.

Storing hay in the field also exposes it to precipitation, and that is where a good moisture tester becomes important. Hay allowed to get too wet is subject to both spoilage and spontaneous combustion. Throwing a temporary hay tarp over exposed bales might be necessary if the weather turns especially ugly and stays that way for a while.

Storing Hay Under Cover

Bringing hay out of the field to store it under cover is generally considered the best way to protect a crop and minimize losses. But it is also expensive if you don’t already have a structure in place. Building a barn is not an option for a lot of growers, many of whom turn to temporary storage buildings like the ones we sell.

Another option for bringing hay out of the field is to stack it in large quantities and then cover the entire stack with tarps. This is a strategy mainly used for the last crop of the year; it’s impractical for the first crop of spring. That hay needs to be easily accessible for both sale and use by the grower.

Even hay stored indoors is subject to volatile moisture levels. So again, keeping the crop off the ground is a wise idea. Pallets, blocks, and even used tractor tires are excellent storage options for getting hay elevated. The goal is to allow circulation under the hay so as not to allow mold to grow.

Determining the Best Option

Experts recommend using a cost analysis reckoning to determine the most suitable option for early-season hay. In other words, determine how much it would cost per bale to implement your chosen storage solution. Take that number and compare it against the expected losses for that solution. Choose the solution that is most financially viable for you.


Hay, Moisture Testing, and Drought Conditions

Imagine being a hay farmer trying to survive under drought conditions. When there’s ample rain, farmers can get at least two cuttings per year and sometimes three. Then their biggest concern is making sure moisture content isn’t too high. But under drought conditions, moisture content is the least of their concerns.

A farmer who buys one of our moisture testers uses it to make sure stored hay does not get too moist or too dry. Moisture content is important to the quality of the hay and, subsequently, the satisfaction of the customer who buys it. But under drought conditions, everything changes. If farmers don’t get enough rain, they can’t even grow a decent crop to begin with.

That appears to be the case in Southwest Colorado this spring. The late winter and spring have been so dry that some farmers have already decided to do just one cutting this year. Some vegetable producers are only working an eighth of their land while cattle producers are reducing the size of their herds for lack of water. It is not a good situation.

Two Ways Around Drought

Drought is nothing new in agriculture. Indeed, some of the longest running family operations in the country have made a practice of planning for drought for hundreds of years. So what can they do, exactly? There are a couple of possibilities, beginning with field irrigation.

Irrigating fields is one way to get around mild to moderate drought conditions. It doesn’t necessarily need to rain as long as the irrigation system is working. But even this method has it downsides. For instance, what do you do after several years of persistent drought leading to water rationing?

Another option is to rotate fields. Field rotation used to be a common practice in the days before large-scale, commercial agriculture. Today though, not a lot of farmers practice it. They really should.

Consider the case of Montana farmer Ray Bannister who operates a 250-head ranch near the town of Wibaux. He began rotating his fields more than 20 years ago and has never had a problem producing hay – even under drought conditions. Bannister explains that allowing a field to rest for one year produces of bountiful crop the next. So that’s what he does.

His hay fields are rested every other year. As for the grazing field, he allows the cattle to severely graze before letting the field rest for 23 months. Bannister says that in the decades he’s been practicing field rotation, he’s never had a problem growing hay or having adequate grazing fields.

When the Hay Does Grow

The farmers in Southwest Colorado will hopefully get at least one hay cutting this year. And when that cutting comes, they will still have to pay attention to moisture content. This year, the biggest challenge will be making sure hay doesn’t dry out. That’s where one of our moisture testers comes into play.

A hay moisture tester consists of an electrified rod and a meter. You insert the rod into a bale of hay and turn the power on. The rod sends electrical current through the hay and receives it on its return. Moisture levels are measured based on the level of resistance to that current.

For the record, we also carry a variety of grain testers. Regardless of whether you are farming hay or corn, you know how critical moisture content is to the finished product. Don’t leave your crop to chance by guessing on its moisture level. Invest in a new moisture tester and know for sure what you’re dealing with.

 


How Do Hay Moisture Testers Work?

A farmer goes out to the barn with a moisture tester in hand. He chooses a bale, inserts the probe, and pushes a button. Almost instantly a number appears on the moisture tester’s LCD screen. The farmer knows right away whether the moisture level in his hay is acceptable or not.

That’s all well and good, but how does it work? How can a single probe measure the amount of water in a bale of hay? If you have ever wanted to know how moisture testers work, this blog post is your answer. Here we explain the basic principles of testing all sorts of grasses and grains for moisture content.

Moisture Content and Density

The first thing to know is that measuring moisture content relies on the principle of density. It is not like bales of hay are dripping with so much water that it can be collected and measured in a beaker. The moisture content is so low that you cannot see it. In some cases, you can’t even feel it. Therefore, measuring moisture relies on measuring the density of the product.

The more water in a bale of hay, the denser that bale is. The opposite is also true. So hay moisture testers are not really looking for water they can measure. They are simply measuring density. Moisture content can be extrapolated from that density measurement.

The tricky part about this is that different grains and grasses have different natural densities. This is why a moisture tester designed for hay isn’t appropriate for grains or coffee. It is why you cannot chop up a small amount of hay and effectively test it using a grain tester. You have to use a tester appropriate to the product you’re trying to measure.

Measuring Product Density

So, how does a moisture tester actually measure density? By sending electrical current throughout the product and then measuring it when it comes back. Bear in mind that water conducts electricity very nicely. So does air, but not nearly as well as water.

The probe typical of a hay moisture tester actually consists of two components. One discharges the electrical current while the other receives it. This creates a complete circuit that can be measured by the tester’s internal components. The amount of resistance in that circuit determines the density of the product.

A bale of hay with a higher moisture content will present less resistance due to the conductive properties of water. The dryer bale will present more resistance. That’s really all there is to it. Moisture content is extrapolated based on density, and density is measured according to the amount of electrical resistance in the hay.

Multiple Readings for Accuracy

While all of this may sound very scientific, note that readings vary based on how loosely baled the hay is. Accounting for such variations is a matter of taking multiple readings. That’s why you’ll see a farmer test multiple locations of a single bale, then test multiple bales in the stack. The idea is to get numerous readings that can be averaged together.

Even after all those measurements have been taken, a grower’s intuition plays a big role in understanding moisture content. Even the most accurate readings may not necessarily tell the whole truth. So farmers rely on a combination of measurements and their own knowledge and experience.

Now you know how moisture testers work. If you need a new tester for hay, grain, or coffee, we hope you will consider what Mytee Products has to offer. Our range of moisture tester products includes a number of different choices at competitive prices.