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New Technology: A perfect dew all day long

Alisa Anderson Published on 31 December 2009

The DewPoint 6110 hooks up between a tractor and a large baler.

Four regulated steam circuits bring hot steam from the DewPoint to the baler, which is dispensed through four manifolds.

Two manifolds inject steam into the  top and bottom of the windrow as the hay is lifted and fed into the baler by the baler pickup, while the other two steam manifolds are in the feed chamber of the baler, where they add additional steam to the hay.

What’s all this steaming for? It is actually one man’s idea for creating the perfect dew point on alfalfa hay and other forage crops.

With the DewPoint, Dave Staheli can bale alfalfa any time of the day or night once his hay is dry enough. The only exception is when natural dew becomes too heavy.

While managing the hay harvest operations at Brent Hunter Farms in Cedar City, Utah in June of 1994, Staheli faced  another typical dry Utah summer that wasn’t conducive to baling hay.

Staheli had seen other producers spray their hay with water trucks or field sprayers to try to create some semblance of “dew” during dry harvest periods, but that didn’t  work very well. Then he remembered a Taco Time he used to frequent, where he would watch the workers use steam to soften the tortillas before making burritos.

“For some reason that came back to mind. That’s when I thought, ‘Well, I’ll bring some hay in the house and fire up my wife’s pressure cooker, make a little steam and see what happens,’” Staheli says.

The steam softened the hay quickly and made it just perfect for baling. At that point, Staheli knew he was on to something.

Staheli built his first machine in 1995. Over the years Staheli worked with a couple of manufacturing companies to improve and develop the machine.

“The main thing that we’ve done is concentrate on user-friendliness. The machine is now computerized with all the control features going through a computer.

We’ve added a touch-screen monitor in the operator’s cab. The computer system has enabled us to automate a lot of the processes that are going on. That way the operator only has to manage the moisture content of the hay he is baling, and that is done really easily,” Staheli says.

Staheli suggests from his experience that operations with two or more large square balers would be interested in the DewPoint. “The reason we say that is because one of these machines in conjunction with a large square baler can do the same amount of work as at least three other conventional balers in the same 24- hour period,” Staheli says.

According to Staheli, the dew simulation machine allows you to schedule your harvests by the calendar. Except in the case of rain, as long as the hay is dry enough, you can bale any time of the day.

The cost of using the DewPoint is between about $1 and $1.25 per ton. The operation uses around half a gallon of diesel to generate sufficient steam when the hay is really dry. These costs also include water treatment chemicals and water softeners.

Another outstanding feature is the ability to produce a consistent product. While in the cab, the operator can customize the steam application depending on how dry the hay is.

Each manifold can be controlled separately. “In the morning, as the dew is starting to go off and the top side of the windrow dries, you typically add a little more steam there and a little less underneath.

As the day progresses and the hay dries all the way through, you put equal amounts on the top and the bottom. And then as the evening comes and the dew starts coming in while you’re still working, you put a little less on the top and more on the bottom,” Staheli says.

Moisture content is consistent in each bale, and during storage it drops to lower levels than what’s generally found in conventionally baled hay. The bales tend to be higher in quality because of higher leaf retention.

“Studies were done by one of the major universities in the Midwest when we were working with this manufacturing company. Their studies on leaf loss found that when using the dew simulation system compared to using natural dew, the leaf loss was about 50 percent lower using the dew simulation. It’s a little bit surprising because we are picking up the hay in the middle of the day. Also, the leaves stay connected to the stem in the bale really well,” Staheli says.

Staheli admits that he doesn’t exactly know how well his hay would do on the market because a dairy in California will buy most of his hay ahead of time. But he is confident that it would market well.

Staheli welcomes any producer who wants to come and watch it work.

“Most people really cannot appreciate the effectiveness of the process without actually seeing it work. We’ve had that experience every time we have someone come out here and we do a demonstration. Most people say they didn’t think it would work, so they are very surprised when they actually see the hay baled in the middle of the afternoon and the quality of the bale that is coming out of the process,” Staheli says.  FG

To learn more about Dave Staheli and the DewPoint 6610, visit the website at www.staheliwest.com, contact him by e-mail at or phone 435-590-2537.

 

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