In this third of six articles in our in-depth series, readers will learn more about Delmhorst moisture meters and how they impact any industry that requires careful management of moisture levels. Today, we are discussing moisture levels in hay production and storage and how Delmhorst's upcoming release of two new moisture meters for agriculture will reduce losses and enhance profitability for both hay and livestock producers.
Uncertain Markets Emphasize Quality Management Values
A series of events caused hay production prices to skyrocket through 2022. Fluctuations in oil prices led to a rise in diesel fuel prices, escalating the costs involved in hay harvesting and transportation. At the same time, fertilizer costs doubled from 2021 levels, adding more expenses to the hay grower budget. In response, the price of hay per ton rose by as much as $250 over 2021 prices. Both hay producers and their customers absorbed those added costs.
As a result, it's more crucial than ever for industry professionals to focus on protecting their hay product investments by appropriately preserving its quality until consumption. Delmhorst's soon-to-be-released FX-20 and FX-30 hay moisture meters will provide them with cutting-edge tools to ensure product stability and reduce the risk of loss due to mold or mildew development.
Ensuring High-Quality Hay
Two factors will determine the relative quality of hay:
Accurate Testing Procedures
Procedures for testing moisture levels differ when the hay is in a windrow or a bale:
The moisture level of loose hay in a windrow is measured by packing as much of it as possible into a five or 10-gallon drum, then testing it after several repacking efforts. The functional moisture level will be the average of those repacks.
Measuring the moisture level in hay bales requires several penetrations of the bale using extended-length probes. The bale size determines the probe length, and the moisture level is the average level indicated by those penetrations.
Accurate Moisture Levels
Too little or too much moisture in pre- and post-baled hay can cause several issues, which will reduce the quality and desirability of the product:
Too Little Moisture
Not enough moisture within the hay often means its nutritional value failed to develop while still in the field. Drought conditions can prevent the plant from producing seeds and/or leaves, each of which provides critical nutrients for livestock consumers. The resulting feed consists of just stems, which don't carry much nutritional value, nor are they palatable for those animals.
Too Much Moisture
Too much moisture in the hay can also erode its nutritional value. Hay baled with a 20% moisture level or higher can develop mold, decreasing its protein and carbohydrate levels. Mold can also trigger the growth of fungi and microorganisms, which will consume the plant's nutritional elements, reducing its quality as a food for livestock. In extreme cases, the eroded product could even prove toxic, especially to horses.
Ironically, too much moisture can also generate heat within the bale itself, potentially triggering combustion and fire. Hay bales reaching an internal temperature of 180° are much more likely to spontaneously combust than bales maintained with appropriate moisture levels.
Benefits of the FX-20 and FX-30
Delmhorst redesigned these two moisture meters to augment their moisture measuring capacities, make them easier to use, and improving their user's overall experience.
The newly designed moisture meters accommodate the uneven lighting conditions typically found in hay storage facilities. The brightly lit dashboard is adjustable for contrast and brightness, providing an easy-to-read, accurate, and convenient moisture-tracking tool.
Maximize Existing Investments
These new moisture meters, designed specifically for the hay industry, use the same insulated and non-insulated pins for their electrodes and probes that you've already used in previous meters, so your existing pin inventory retains its value.
Ease of Use
Perhaps the most significant advantage of the FX-20 and FX-30 for both hay and livestock producers is how easy it is to use the revamped hay moisture meters.
Redesigned navigation screens make it simple to find and use the features you're looking for as you move through your moisture-measuring project. With the new models, there's next to no learning curve standing between you and productive use of the tool.
The devices are now also programmed to collect and transmit statistical data to an e-mail address or spreadsheet for easy record-keeping. The digital aspect eliminates the need to manually input information and collects more accurate and reliable data for analysis. It also generates year-over-year reports so you can track your operations from season to season.
The FX-30 Extends Industry Availability
Delmhorst's new moisture meter devices aren't limited to hay growers. While the FX-20 version is specific to the hay production industry, the FX-30 device adds extended settings for several other agricultural materials. It will be a valuable and reliable moisture measurement tool for growers of hemp, Brazil nuts, hops, and other crops that require careful control and management of moisture levels to optimize production quality.
Additionally, the FX-30 is compatible with Delmhorst's EDGE™ application, which provides unlimited data storage capacities for an expanded catalog of material types. The digital tool also allows users to create and build Excel data sheets, view their statistics in real-time, append notes to each meter reading, and create a graphical histogram that charts how their hay harvest, baling, and storage activities impact their productivity over time.
Hay and livestock producers can get a better read on their productivity using the FX-20 and FX-30 to measure relative moisture levels in their hay stores. Our next post will explore how Delmhorst's PX-20 and PX-30 moisture meters are briging the same innovation and value to the paper industry. For more information, reach out to the moisture meter professionals at Delhorst today.